NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State was turnover free but not touchdown heavy Saturday morning in its second scrimmage of spring football practice, while starting quarterback Shelton Eppler displayed the efficiency that made him the sixth-most productive passer in the FCS last fall.
Eppler, a senior, threw for 162 yards on 15 of 23 aim. He hit consecutive passes to junior Kendrick Price on the opening series, including a 47-yard touchdown strike down the middle on the fourth play of the 90-minute competition in Turpin Stadium.
But afterwards, the Purple Swarm defense kept the explosive NSU offense contained. A 20-yard toss down the sideline from Bryce Rivers to Tanner Ash was the only other TD on 74 offensive snaps.
“We came out hot, but throughout the practice, the defense took advantage of us,” said Eppler, who averaged 292 yards passing in his Demon debut last season. “They handled our quick outs very, very well, and I feel like they got us in this one.”
Head coach Brad Laird, who said Friday he hoped to see some receivers step forward from the crowd, liked Price’s production (2-60).
“It was good to see a fast start from the offense and it was good to see Kendrick Price step up with big plays. Not only did he score early, he had a longer one (65 yards from Rivers) for a touchdown that got wiped out by a penalty. He had a good day.”
Senior Quan Shorts led 11 receivers with six catches (22 yards). Sophomore Myles Ward had five grabs for 40 yards, including a spectacular leaping snatch stealing a pass from a defender. Ash collected a scrimmage-best 63 yards on three catches, with a long of 35 yards.
But after Price’s touchdown, the only other scoring came in red zone and goalline competitions. Walk-on kicker Ryan Gremillion booted field goals of 21, 31 and 33 yards.
“I like how the defense responded. We hit a big play early and the defense bounced back,” said Laird. “They won the red zone competition and didn’t give up a bunch of big plays.”
The Purple Swarm defense was topped by five tackles from senior linebacker Quindarrius Whitley along with four by senior cornerback D’Ronne Littleton and sophomore linebacker Rashaud Powell. Sophomore linebacker Isaiah Longino had a sack and a tackle for loss among his three stops while junior linebacker Kyle Moore posted two tackles for loss and a sack.
“We competed with good effort and energy,” said Laird. “We wanted to see improvement, and we’ll see that in some areas when we watch the film. We’ll be able to pinpoint areas to work on during our four remaining practices next week.”
The Demons work out Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoon before the 30th Annual Joe Delaney Bowl spring game at 2 o’clock next Saturday in Turpin Stadium.