NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State’s 12-game 2019 football schedule unveiled Tuesday includes a Sept. 14 visit to Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge to meet LSU, coached by former Demon player Ed Orgeron, and brings four Texas opponents to Turpin Stadium along with old in-state rival Southeastern Louisiana.
The slate begins and ends with Thursday night contests: Aug. 29, at Tennessee-Martin of the FCS Ohio Valley Conference with the Skyhawks returning the game in 2021, and Nov. 21 when the Demons’ oldest active rivalry is renewed as Stephen F. Austin comes in for the regular-season finale.
NSU’s home opener is Sept. 7 against Division II powerhouse Midwestern State, which has 19 straight winning seasons and four national playoff appearances in the past five years.
The Demons host four Southland Conference contests, beginning Sept. 28 against Southeastern. NSU’s homecoming foe is Central Arkansas on Oct. 19, with 2018 FCS playoff entry Lamar visiting Turpin Stadium on Nov. 9 in a rematch of a 49-48 Demon win last year. The NSU-SFA matchup, the annual “Battle for Chief Caddo,” the largest trophy in sports, will be played on a Thursday for the second straight year, with NSU aiming for a third consecutive victory in a series dating back to 1924.
Season tickets for the 2019 campaign’s five home games are already available through the NSUDemons.com website.
The schedule was announced by veteran Northwestern State director of athletics Greg Burke and second-year head football coach Brad Laird.
“The 2019 schedule offers a diverse group of opponents that should enthuse the Demon fan base,” said Burke. “From the game at LSU to a home and home FCS series with Tennessee-Martin to a quality Division II opponent in Midwestern State – on top of the always competitive Southland schedule – this schedule has a little bit of everything. Overall, that translates into a very high level of football that will await Demon football week and week out. I have no doubt they will be up to the challenge.”
The Demons (5-6 in 2018) were three points shy of their first winning season since 2008 last fall in Laird’s debut, setting 20 school offensive records while ranking 12th nationally with the Purple Swarm defense producing 26 forced turnovers.
NSU anticipates returning 41 lettermen, including seven defensive starters and six on offense, from the 2018 squad. Among those back are All-America safety Hayden Bourgeois, senior All-America candidate Chris Zirkle on the offensive line, and prolific passer Shelton Eppler, sixth nationally as a junior in 2018 with a 293-yard passing average.
“We’re excited about playing a 12-game schedule, getting the extra game in the regular season. That hasn’t happened for FCS programs for five years and we embrace the opportunity,” said Laird. “We open on a Thursday night at UT Martin, a first-time opponent, and we’ll end on a Thursday at home against SFA, which is always a great game.
“Our five home games all present good challenges, starting with one of the more successful Division II programs in the country with Midwestern State coming into Turpin Stadium. Any Southland Conference game is a battle. Those matchups against Southeastern, UCA, Lamar and SFA will be intense and I’m sure, fun to watch. The open date (Oct. 5) falls at a good time, in the middle of the season when a week off will really be beneficial.”
The visit to LSU is the second this decade for Northwestern, which sold nearly 5,000 tickets in 2011 when the Demons squared off against the second-ranked Tigers. LSU walked away 49-3 winners, although NSU trailed just 7-3 in the second quarter in the 11th all-time meeting between the schools, the first since 1942.
“The opportunity to go play at LSU, to compete in Tiger Stadium against a team that is going to be highly ranked, is not only great for our football program but it’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase our great band and galvanize Demon supporters everywhere,” said Laird. “Of course we take pride in Coach O and the job he’s done there, so this will be a unique matchup.”
Orgeron is in the N-Club Hall of Fame at Northwestern as one of the Demons’ football greats. He was a standout defensive lineman at NSU from 1980-83, then began his coaching career under Sam Goodwin.
“NSU is grateful for the opportunity to play LSU in Tiger Stadium, a venue that is so familiar and has special meaning to so many of our players and coaches, especially those who grew up in Louisiana,” said Burke. “Special acknowledgment is in order to (LSU’s vice chancellor and director of athletics) Joe Alleva and (Tigers’ deputy director of athletics) Verge Ausberry for their role in finalizing the agreement for this game.”
Sales of tickets in the NSU seating sections of Tiger Stadium will begin later this spring, said Burke.
The Demons will begin spring practice March 7, with the 30th Annual Joe Delaney Bowl spring game set Saturday, March 30.
The 2019 Northwestern State football schedule (Southland Conference games indicated with asterisk*):
Thursday, Aug. 29 at UT Martin, kickoff TBA; Saturday, Sept. 7 home vs. Midwestern State, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 14 at LSU, kickoff TBA; Saturday, Sept. 21 at Houston Baptist*, kickoff 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 28 home vs. Southeastern La.*, 6 p.m.; Saturday, October 12 at Nicholls*, kickoff TBA; Saturday, October 19, homecoming vs. Central Arkansas*, 6 p.m.; Saturday, October 26 at Incarnate Word*, kickoff TBA; Saturday, November 2 at McNeese*, kickoff TBA; Saturday, November 9 home vs. Lamar*, 6 p.m.; Saturday, November 16 at Sam Houston State*, kickoff TBA; Thursday, November 21, home vs. Stephen F. Austin*, 6 p.m.