ACU football (2-6 overall, 2-5 conference) travels to Louisiana in search of ending its five-game losing streak against the Northwestern State Demons (2-6, 2-4).
The Demons may look like a struggling team with a record of just 2-6, but they have gone 2-1 since Stephen Rivers, brother of San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, took over as the starter. Rivers is a changeup from what the ACU defense has been facing over the last two weeks. He stands 6’7″ and is a strong pocket passer instead of a dual threat quarterback like McNeese’s Daniel Sams and Incarnate Word’s Trent Brittain.
However, the Demons make up for their lack of a running quarterback with three 300-plus yards running backs lead by junior (594 yards, 9 touchdowns) De’Mard Lorens. NSU runs a heavy ground-based offense with a run-to-pass ratio of 351:190 on the season. The Demons will pound the rock as evidenced by their 37-21 win over Nicholls State last week. NSU passed just eight times in comparison to 58 rush attempts for 363 yards.
Head coach Ken Collums mirrored the belief that NSU is a run first team, especially with questions at the quarterback position.
“They have played several different quarterbacks,” Collums said. “They want to be balanced but last week against Nicholls it was a rainstorm and they just ran the ball.”
When the Demons do got to the air, Rivers will be throwing to record-breaking senior wide receiver Ed Eagan. Eagan gave ACU’s defense fits last year catching 13 passes for 126 yards.
Eagan will have to put up with one of the Southland’s best cornerback’s, freshman Jabari Butler. Butler leads the Southland in interceptions with six and earned defensive player of the week honors after recording two picks against McNeese last week.
Coach Collums said Butler’s ability to make a play on the ball differentiates him from most corners.
“A lot of corners can change direction and tackle,” Collums said. “But the thing they struggle with is when the ball is in the air. Jabari doesn’t struggle with that. He adjusts to the ball sometimes better than the receiver.”
The stout NSU run game will also see a rejuvenated ACU defense that held McNeese State to just 306 yards of offense and forced five turnovers. The run defense also held a rushing offense below 200 yards for the first time all season. Expect to see some more pressure on Rivers as the ‘Cats defense recorded three sacks last week, one courtesy of rising sophomore LaMarcus Allen. Allen has put together a nice year compiling 38 tackles, two tackles for loss and two sacks.
ACU’s offense gets a break this week, as they face the worst Southland defense a week after facing the Southland’s best (McNeese). Freshman quarterback Dallas Sealey should improve on a solid first start where he was responsible for 321 yards of offense and two scores. A player to watch in Sealey’s second start is junior wide out Carl Whitley. Whitley has nine catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns since Sealey took over against UIW.
This week could be a great time for the rushing attack to return. Sophomore De’Andre Brown rushed five times for -4 yards last week resulting in ACU abandoning the run early on. A depleted offensive line has left the run game with nowhere to go, but NSU gives up the most yards per game on the ground in the Southland (292.3).