LU Faces Demons, Looking for Third-Straight W

BEAUMONT, Texas – The Lamar University football team returned from its longest road trip of the season riding a two-game win streak. The Cardinals (2-3/2-1 Southland) will look to make it three wins in a row for the first time since the 1989 season Saturday when it steps on the field against Northwestern State. The Demons (1-4/0-3 SLC) are making their first trip to Beaumont since 2011.

The Demons found themselves in similar territory to the Red and White prior to last week. The Cardinals opened the season dropping three straight – all against nationally ranked opponents – but have bounced back by winning their last two contests. Northwestern State opened the season with four consecutive losses before getting in the win column last week against Kentucky Wesleyan.

“We have another big game this week,” said LU head coach Ray Woodard. “Northwestern State is coming off their first win of the season, and we know how good that felt when we got ours. It made for a good week of practice, and it will be the same for them.

“Northwestern State is a team that has been a thorn in our side. We’ve come very close to beating them on a number of occasions but have not. We haven’t beaten (Northwestern State) since we brought football back. We have another opportunity this Saturday.”

The Cardinals enter the seventh week of the season in a three-way tie for third in the Southland standings (Nicholls and Southeastern Louisiana), only a game back in the loss column to Sam Houston State and Central Arkansas. The good news for the Cards is they own the tiebreak over the Lions and still have a date with Nicholls later this season. Also in the good news column is the fact that UCA and Sam Houston State have yet to play each other, and the Cardinals still have a game with Central Arkansas on the schedule. The only item in the bad news column is for LU is that one of their three setbacks is to SHSU.

The Demons’ offense has struggled at times moving the football ranking last in the Southland in total offense (329.6 ypg) and 10th in scoring offense (21.6 ppg) and pass offense (157.0 ypg). Northwestern State has found success running the football. The Demons are ranked fourth in the league averaging better than 170 rushing yards per game. They have three athletes averaging at least 39 yards rushing per game, led by senior Chris Jones (55-355/1 TD/88.8 ypg).

“Northwestern State plays better defense than the numbers indicate,” said Woodard. “Their quarterback is a transfer guy who is getting better every week. They run the football really well. They ran the ball against us well last season. They are a lot like us. You can’t go by their record. Northwestern (State) is a much better team than their record.”

This presents and interesting battle as the Red and White has stepped up the pressure defensively over the course of the past two weeks. The Cardinals are surrendering only 12 points to their opponents during the modest two-game win streak. During that stretch, the Cardinals are surrendering fewer than 340 yards of total offense per game.

Part of the defense’s success is due to the LU secondary. Senior Brendan Langley has become a one-man wrecking crew tied for the national lead in interceptions per game. He has picked off at least one pass in each of the past three games, including a school-record three in the team’s win over Southeastern Louisiana.

While the Cardinals defense has forced opponents out of rhythm, Big Red’s offense has been taking advantage of its opportunities. LU has scored 38 points in each of the past two games. Part of the offense’s success is due to the re-emergence of senior quarterback Carson Earp. The Robinson, Texas native, lost his starting job earlier in the season but following an injury to Andrew Allen, Earp has become a strong leader with both his arm and feet.

Earp has completed 60 percent of his passes for 509 yards and a touchdown, and has carried the 31 times for 178 yards (5.7 ypc) and three touchdowns. He is coming off one of the more accurate performances by a quarterback in school history completing 16-of-19 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown at Abilene Christian.

The Cardinals also have the Southland’s leading rusher in senior Kade Harrington. The Kingwood, Texas native, has carried the ball 114 times for 594 yards and four touchdowns, and is averaging better than five yards per carry and nearly 119 yards per game. Northwestern State ranks near the bottom of the league giving up 198 rushing yards per contest.

“Lamar is one of the hotter teams in our league right now,” said Demons’ head coach Jay Thomas. “They have a nice run going. When you look at them on film, they are very balanced in all three areas. Kade (Harrington) is running the ball well, and they are efficient in what they do. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone to Beaumont. This is going to be another tough Southland Conference game.”