Big first quarter lifts Demons past Tigers

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NATCHITOCHES, La. | Shelton Eppler threw four touchdown passes, including three in the first quarter, as the Northwestern State University football team jumped out to a big lead and did not look back in a  34-7 victory over Grambling State on Saturday night at Turpin Stadium.

 Eppler threw touchdown passes of 20 yards (Jaylen Watson), 13 yards (Jazz Ferguson), 12 yards (Da’Von Smith) and 10 yards (Levar Gumms) in helping the Demons snap a three-game losing streak to Grambling State.

Northwestern State (1-1) took the opening kickoff and marched 73 yards in seven plays as Shelton Eppler connected with Jaylen Watson on a 20-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the endzone to give the Demons an early 7-0 lead with 12:33 left in the first quarter.

Grambling State (0-2) was able to move the football on its first drive, but was forced to punt the ball.

The Demons cashed that punt into their second consecutive scoring drive. Northwestern State used just 2:34 off the clock and went 65 yards in seven plays with Eppler tossing his second touchdown pass, a 13-yarder, to Jazz Ferguson, to extend the Demons advantage to 14-0 with 6:57 remaining in the opening frame.

The Tigers were forced to punt after going three-and-out on their next offensive possession.  Miguel Mendez’s punt travelled 16 yards and set up the Demons in good field position at the GSU 34 yard-line.

Northwestern State capitalized on the short field by going 34 yards in just three plays as Eppler found Da’Von Smith for a 12-yard touchdown to push the lead to 21-0 with 4:59 left in the first quarter.

Grambling State battled back on its next drive as the Tigers got a 38-yard pass from Aldon Clark to Raylon Richardson to set up shop at the Demons 12-yard line. Three plays later, Kevin Dominique scored on a six-yard run to cap a six-play, 70-yard drive and closed the gap to 21-7 with 14:45 remaining in the second quarter.

After forcing a Northwestern State to punt, the Tigers coughed the ball up and gave the Demons good field position inside GSU territory.

However, Austy Fendrick’s 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked by De’Arius Christmas to keep the deficit at 21-7 with 7:59 left in the first half.

Northwestern State added to the lead with a little less than two minutes remaining in the half as Hickbottom tossed his second interception of the night to give the Demons the ball at their own 47.

After the turnover, Northwestern State went 53 yards in three plays as Eppler connected with Levar Gumms for 10 yards to extend the lead to 27-7.

Grambling State got the ball to begin the second half, but a promising drive ended when Clark was intercepted in the end zone by Rashaun Croney.

The Demons put the game away early in the fourth quarter with a 14-play, 74-yard drive, capped by a Jared West 3-yard touchdown run to give Northwestern State a 34-7 advantage with 13:42 left.

Turning Point
Grambling State’s defense was on the field for 20 plays in the opening quarter as Northwestern State built a 21-0 first-quarter lead.

The Tigers defense surrendered 166 yards in the opening quarter, including 130 through the air. Shelton Epller threw touchdown passes to Jaylen Watson (20 yards), Jazz Ferguson (13 yards) and Da’Von Smith (12 yards).

Grambling State was able to punch in a six-yard run at the beginning of the second quarter from Kevin Dominique to close the gap to 21-7.

However, turnovers killed the Tigers on Saturday night as Clark and Hickbottom combined to throw four interceptions and GSU coughed the ball up once on a fumble.

Inside the Numbers
> Grambling State finished with 22 first downs

> The Tigers amassed 349 yards on 72 plays, with 208 coming on the ground

> Grambling State turned the ball over five times, including four interceptions

> Aldon Clark was 14-of-22 passing for 125 yards and two interceptions

> Geremy Hickbottom finished the night with 16 yards on 3-of-10 passing and two picks

> Aldon Clark led the ground game with 67 yards on 14 carries

> Kevin Dominique added 56 yards on 11 touches and one score

> Lyndemian Brooks rushed seven times for 47 yards

> Raylon Richardson caught one pass for 38 yards

> Devohn Lindsey added two catches for 25 yards

> Damien Crumitie led the defense with seven tackles, including five solo stops

> Devinar Martin registered six tackles

> Northwestern State recorded 29 first downs

> The Demons racked up 504 total yards on 79 plays, including 359 through the air

> Shelton Eppler was 24-of-31 passing for 263 yards and four touchdowns

> Jared West recorded 87 yards on 15 carries

> Stadford Anderson rushed 11 times for 49 yards

> Quan Shorts caught six passes for 78 yards

> Jazz Ferguson recorded 74 yards on seven catches and one score

> Jaylen Watson finished with seven catches for 55 yards and one touchdown

> Jalon Sangster tallied nine tackles, including three solo stops

> Ryan Reid added eight tackles, five solo
 
News & Notes
> Saturday’s game was the fifth meeting between Grambling State and Northwestern State

> Grambling State leads the series, 3-2

> Northwestern State snapped a three-game losing streak to Grambling State

> The Demons win over the Tigers was the first in the series since 2007

> Cecil Cherry was ejected in the third quarter for targeting and will miss the first half of the Sept. 22 game against Alabama State

> The Tigers were receiving votes in the STATS FCS Top 25 and FCS Coaches Poll

> Grambling State was ranked No. 1 in the SBN Black College Football Poll and No. 2 in the HBCU BOXTOROW Coaches Poll

> GSU is 36-45 all-time against teams from the state of Louisiana

> Grambling State head coach Broderick Fobbs remains 11 wins shy of 50 for his career

> The Tigers begin the season 0-2 for the first time since the 2015 season

> GSU is 0-2 this season when starting the game on defense

> Grambling State used a two-quarterback system with Geremy Hickbottom and Aldon Clark splitting time

> Grambling State is 3-7 when wearing the all white jerseys


Up Next
Grambling State will take a week off to prepare for its 2018 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and home opener against Alabama State on Saturday, Sept. 22 at Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium. The Tigers and Hornets met last season in Montgomery, Ala., with Grambling State picking up a 24-7 victory. Alabama State was in action Saturday night at SEC power Auburn. The Hornets will visit Kennesaw State next Saturday before facing Grambling State on Sept. 22.

Follow Grambling State Athletics

For complete coverage of Grambling State athletics, please follow the Tigers on social media at @GSU_Tigers (Twitter), /gramblingstateathletics (Facebook), @gramblingathletics01 (Instagram) or visit the official home of Grambling State Athletics at gsutigers.com.

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