There will be a considerable difference in opponents for both Arkansas-Monticello and Northwestern State when the two teams meet up at 6 p.m. today in Natchitoches, La.
Last week, UAM (1-0) beat College of Faith 78-0 to open the season. However, College of Faith is an unaccredited college that is not even in NAIA.
UAM coach Hud Jackson said it was tough to see where his team is at after playing an opponent like College of Faith.
“They did have some good football players and they have a defense that made some plays, but it isn’t in comparison in what we will face this week,” he said. “That game did tell us who our players will react to game situations. … After this week, we will be able to tell more about our team.”
Northwestern State is an FCS opponent that plays in one of the toughest conferences at that level — the Southland Conference.
“Obviously it will be a night and day difference with what we just played,” Jackson said. “We are excited about the challenge and we won’t back down from it and we look forward to competing and playing these guys.”
Northwestern State opened the season with a 44-6 loss to Texas Tech of the Big 12 and gets to play an NCAA Division II opponent today.
The Boll Weevils should be a welcome sight for the Demons since they were only able to muster up 81 yards of total offense against the Red Raiders. Last year, the Demons, who went 5-6, averaged 21.27 points per game and 283.4 total yards a game. Northwestern State also has a lot of experience returning from last year’s offense, especially with senior quarterback Brad Henderson.
Last year, Henderson set a couple of school records, including the season mark for passing accuracy as he completed 61.6 percent of his passes. He also completed 178 passes in 11 games, which set the new record.
“I know that he is very consistent,” said Jackson of Henderson. “He is going to make good throws and him being so consistent plays into their game plan. It’s going to be a challenge for our defense and we have to be prepared to stop them.”
It is the Demons’ defense that can be attacked. Northwestern State gave up an average of 27 points per game and 388.2 total yards per game. The Demons have three sophomores starting on defense this year.
Even though it was against a lesser opponent, UAM quarterback Hunter Leppert was 14 of 22 and passed for 160 yards and four touchdowns in limited action. Jamal Nixon was the leading receiver with five receptions for 69 yards and one touchdown.
Jackson said UAM’s skill players will have to step up against Northwestern State.
“We feel really good about the guys we have at our skill positions,” Jackson said. “We are just going to try and get the ball in as many of those guys’ hands as possible.”
The biggest key for the Boll Weevils against a team that is playing up a level — be consistent and take care of the ball.
“We are going to be smart and try to do some things that give us a chance to win,” Jackson said. “Defensively, make the tackles and make the right reads. We can’t panic and we have to stay consistent. If we don’t, things can get ugly quick.”