Demons could be in big hurry

Up-tempo offenses spell trouble

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B.J. Blunt knows what’s coming.

The McNeese State senior linebacker already knows what Northwestern State’s offense will try to do in order to get the upper hand on the Cowboys defense.

Hurry up.

The fast-tempo, no-huddle, hurry-up offense has give McNeese’s defense some trouble. It started early when Houston Baptist put up 34 points on the Cowboys. Then Incarnate Word used it and jumped on McNeese early and often, scoring 45 points (seven coming on a UIW interception returned for a touchdown).

Other teams like Southeastern Louisiana and Brigham Young did not use it for the majority of the game, but they’ve brought it out when they thought it was the right time.

“We know they might try to come out and hurry up (against) us,” Blunt said. “Southeastern had success at it, HBU had success at it early in the year, and even BYU pulled it out. So I know that’s something they’re going to try and pull out. So we been out here trying to practice hard and intense to get us ready for those type of situations.”

Blunt said he believes that hustling back to the line of scrimmage will help the McNeese defense become more effective. Going up against fast-paced teams, substitutions are hard to do, especially if the opposing offense does not sub anyone off the field. Communication can also be tough because there is such a limited time to get the play call in. So getting to the line and getting lined up is key.

“Not walk back to the ball, line up quick,” Blunt mentioned as two things that the Cowboys are working on to get ready for NSU’s offense. “Just put ourselves in bad situations so that when the time comes for those situations, we’re ready to handle them.”

The fast pace is just one challenge that NSU presents. The Demons (3-6, 2-5 SLC) will usually deploy a single running back with three wide receivers and a tight end or four wide receivers. NSU has three wide receivers with at least 42 receptions and 472 years. The best of them is LSU transfer Jazz Ferguson (6-foot-5, 205 pounds), who is eighth in the Football Championship Subdivision in receiving yards (934) and fourth in the FCS in touchdown receptions (11).

“Some big wide receivers, especially (Ferguson),” McNeese head coach/defensive coordinator Lance Guidry said. “He’s got a big catch radius, a lot of back-shoulder throws and one-on-one coverage. There’s no way you can double a guy and help support the run so there’s going to be some one-on-ones and we’re going to have to try and win as many as he wins. It’s going to be a challenge but I think our kids are will be up to it.”

NSU is not shy about wanting to throw the ball. The Demons are among the worst running teams in the country, ranking 118th out of 124 FCS teams in rushing offense (88 yards per game). When they do run, they average about 2.9 yards per carry. That, combined with McNeese’s strong run defense, means the first-place Cowboys (6-3, 5-2) should expect plenty of throws on Saturday.

The Demons have thrown for 326.3 yards per game, third in the FCS. In the last three games, NSU has used four quarterbacks. Shelton Eppler is the leading passer on the team, having for 2,046 yards and 20 touchdowns. But Kaleb Fletcher is the only NSU quarterback who has played in each of the past three games.

Having to prepare for so many quarterbacks can be a bit difficult, but at this point, the Cowboys are simply preparing to go against the NSU offense as a whole.

“Just prepare for every one of them,” Blunt responded when asked how the defense will get ready for so many different looks. “(Kenny Sears and Eppler) are kind of similar. (Fletcher) is a runner. It’s just about watching film and seeing what those guys like to do. All of them got their pros, but all of them got cons too. So we’re just going to try and take advantage of each one of them.”

Saturday, 6 p.m.

””

Shelton Eppler, Northwestern State quarterback

(AP Photo/Sam Craft)

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