Cardinals Head to Northwestern State

GO CARDINALS Jesse Dickson
Jesse Dickson

Nov. 7, 2013

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BEAUMONT, Texas - The Lamar Cardinals will be in Natchitoches, La., Saturday to take on Northwestern State. The game against the Demons is a matchup of two nearly identical teams looking to make a late-season climb up the Southland standings. Both programs enter the week with a 4-5 (.444) overall record, and locked in a four-way tie for fifth in the conference standings.

Adding to the identical nature of the two teams, both enter the game having recently ended a three-game slide. The Cardinals ended their three-game conference skid with a record-setting victory over Nicholls State, while Northwestern State ended its slide with a three-point upset of nationally ranked Central Arkansas.

I was really proud of what we did the first half against Nicholls," said head coach Ray Woodard. "We were able to score some points, and our depleted defense did a great job. That performance continued in the second half. I believe it is going to be like that the rest of the season. Every team in this conference moves the ball up the field and scores points. Northwestern State is no different. If someone steps up defensively, they should come out on top.

"The Demons are coming off a big win over Central Arkansas, and they are approaching this game in similar fashion to our guys. They are also looking to get a win this week, and try and make some late season noise," added Woodard.

In addition to all the previous mentioned similarities, neither team has an advantage in the all-time history. The series is tied after 15 meetings, 7-7-1, but the Demons have had the upper hand lately winning the previous two meetings. The Cardinals have had the upper hand in Natchitoches, with a 3-2-1 (.583) record all-time at Northwestern State.

One constant that has remained throughout the season has been the strength of Lamar's defense. Led by defensive lineman Jesse Dickson, the Cardinals continue to lead the Southland Conference surrendering 365 yards per game. Although he's ranked ninth in the conference averaging better than 7.2 tackles per game, Dickson is the only defensive lineman ranked in the league's top 25 in tackles. He also leads the league in tackles for losses (1.39 per game) and is tied for fifth in sacks (0.56 pg). "Lamar has been in a lot of close games that they have had chances to win against some tough teams," said Northwestern State head coach Jay Thomas. "They took Louisiana Tech and Sam Houston State right down to the wire. Lamar's defense has played well all season. Their secondary is really strong and the defensive line plays aggressive. Jesse Dickson has put together a great season. They give you multiple looks and make it very tough to move the ball. Offensively, Lamar is very efficient. The quarterback, Caleb Berry, has been steady in the pocket and he has a ton of big playmakers."

Despite their impressive victory over nationally ranked Central Arkansas, the Demons have struggled at times offensively throughout the 2013 campaign. Northwestern State enters the week ranked eighth in the Southland in scoring and total offense.

Similar to Lamar, the Demons bring a very talented defense into the game. Northwestern State is ranked third in the Southland in total defense (384 ypg), and second - just behind Lamar - in pass defense (219.7 ypg).

"Jay (Thomas) has done a great job no matter where he's been," said Woodard. "I think that's a huge reason why they beat Central Arkansas and why they've been playing as well as they have. Jay's defense is playing great, and I really think that is going to be the key to the game.

"Northwestern line is big and physical, and tough to run the ball on. They are smart when they blitz, and they don't get beat deep. It's not anyone thing that they do better than the other. The Demons just have a solid defense across the board," added Woodard.

Saturday's game is slated to kickoff at 3 p.m. from Turpin Stadium and will be broadcast on the Southland Network. The game can be seen in Beaumont on K-JAC HD.




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