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Northwestern State's Louis Hollier struggles against Nevada defenders during their game on Sept. 15. (Associated Press)

Northwestern State's Louis Hollier struggles against Nevada defenders during their game on Sept. 15. (Associated Press)

Cowboys will get stout defensive challenge from Demons

Last Modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 4:25 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Northwestern State’s offense has gone all Rip Van Winkle the last two weeks.

After lying dormant most of last year and at the start of the season — the Demons were seventh in the Southland in scoring and total offense in 2011 — the men in purple are suddenly putting points on the board.

Quarterback Brad Henderson approached the single-game school records of Bobby Hebert in a 45-34 loss at Football Bowl Subdivision Nevada, and the Demons (2-2) continued to click in last week’s 45-14 win over Mississippi Valley State.

“Brad Henderson in the last two weeks has played very, very well,” said Northwestern State coach Bradley Dale Peveto. “In the game of football, you’ve just got to keep working and believing. The first couple games, the offense went pretty rough for us. The past two weeks he’s played extremely well and we’ve played extremely well.

“That’s a product of our assistant coaches staying after him and our team staying together. When one side of ball is behind the other you can’t point fingers. We talk about having the other phase’s back.”

Northwestern State had its highest offensive output in a decade at Nevada, rolling up 585 yards. Henderson accounted for most of them, rushing for 102 yards on 11 carries and throwing for 357 yards on 28 of 53 passing.

“He’s kind of turned it loose,” said McNeese State head coach Matt Viator. “It looks like he’s caught his stride. I love the kid. I think he’s a winner. He’s tough to defend. He’s kind of awkward how he does it. He’s a bigger kid. I don’t know if he’s fast or if he has any moves. He just gets things done.”

Henderson was a bit more human against the Delta Devils last week, running for 15 yards on nine attempts while throwing for 127 yards. However, three of his 19 completions were touchdowns.

Henderson’s favorite target is Northwestern’s most potent scoring option on offense and special teams.

Senior Phillip Harvey leads the Demons with 12 catches for 201 yards, and is even more dangerous in the return game. Last week he had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and also returned a punt 71 yards, albeit not for a score.

“I think any time you’re able to score on special teams and flip the momentum, it’s huge,” Peveto said. “It wins you games. That’s what our special teams did last week, they put us in position to win the football game.”

Whether the Demons continue to progress offensively or regress to the unit that gained 99 yards at Texas Tech and 256 against Division II Arkansas-Monticello, McNeese can count on getting a stout defensive challenge.

Viator is overflowing in his praise for the middle of the Demons defense, which is anchored by tackles Damon Medcalfe and Lesley Deamer, middle linebacker Derek Rose and safeties Jamaal White and Bert White.

“I’ve heard baseball guys, Sparky Anderson, talk about building the middle of the defense,” Viator said. “It’s interesting to look at it that way in football. To me, it starts in the middle with what they do. Even against Texas Tech and Nevada, those kids belonged on the field. They made a ton of plays.”

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