Saturday’s loss marks the sixth consecutive loss in as many games this season as the Demons continue to struggle to hold it together through a full game. Hosting a roster lined with talent and potential, inconsistency seems to be the problem on all sides of the ball.
In his first season as head coach, Brad Laird began to reshape the image of a program that had become marked by consistently poor performance and an unenthused fan base. His effort culminated in a string of late-season victories that saw the Demons with their best win-loss record, 5-6, since 2014, 6-6.
Exactly halfway through the season, the Demons look back on a tough schedule. In their first six games, they’ve played against the FBS-ranked No. 2 SEC powerhouse LSU and two FCS top-25 ranked opponents.
While managing to demonstrate their potential in doses, the Demons struggle with firing on all-cylinders over the course of both halves. Their most recent game against FCS No. 9 Nicholls State was marked by slow starts in each half, a reoccurring issue for the Demons.
“Week in and week out, when you look at our conference, you have the opportunity to win games,” Laird said following Saturday’s 35-45 loss to Nicholls State. “Starting fast is a key. We’ve shown what we’re capable of doing whether it was the first half at LSU, the first half against Southeastern or what we did offensively in the second half (at Nicholls).”
“We’ve shown what we’re capable of,” Laird said. “Now we must put it together for 60 minutes in all three phases, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to do that Saturday (against Central Arkansas).”
Failing to convert opportunities on third-down and in the red zone have plagued the Demons this season, as well as an abundance of penalties. Against then-No.9 Southeastern State, the Demons totaled 13 penalties, 10 of them being in the second half.
“That’s one thing we really haven’t faced in four weeks aside from the first quarter of the Midwestern State game,” Laird said. “I’ve got to look at the film to see if they’re effort penalties or were they not where they were supposed to be. You have (13) penalties, and it’s hard to overcome that.”
The frustration is also felt among some of the players.
“It’s pretty frustrating that we can’t put together a full game,” senior wide receiver Quan Shorts said. “We came out so hot in the first half (against Southeastern), and we wanted to take that momentum to the second half. We couldn’t get it done. We have to get back to work and get ready for the next game.”
As the Demons prepare for the second half of the season, maintaining consistency in all three phases through all 60 minutes is the key focus.
“These guys, we’ve got to keep working,” Laird said. “We’re going to get a win. We have to understand every week we have a chance to go 1-0, and we’ll start that on Sunday.”
The Demons take the field next at home on Saturday at 6 p.m. against the University of Central Arkansas in NSU’s homecoming game.