BATON ROUGE, La. (NSU) - Walking into the 102,321-seat concrete edifice that is LSU’s Tiger Stadium is daunting for any visiting team.
Thankfully for the majority of the 2019 Northwestern State football roster, those players have a bit of a blueprint on how to handle Southeastern Conference-sized stadiums.
A heavy portion of that experience resides at the top of the Demons’ roster as 15 seniors were part of Northwestern State’s 2018 season opener at Texas A&M, a game that ushered in the Jimbo Fisher era for the Aggies and drew 95,855 to Kyle Field on a Thursday night.
The crowd Saturday night at 6:39 when the Demons face LSU for the first time since 2011 could exceed the nearly 96,000 people that crammed into Kyle Field. Saturday’s game will air on the SEC Network and can be heard on The Demon Sports Network, flagshipped by 94.9 FM The River in Natchitoches and including 710 AM KEEL in Shreveport and 105.5 FM in Alexandria. Streaming audio is available on www.NSUDemons.com and through the Northwestern State mobile app, available for free download on both Google Play and the Apple Store.
“It’s going to be live,” senior running back Jared West said. “There will be 100,000-plus fans there. We have to keep the young guys on board and not get lost in the distractions that come with it. It’s easy to get caught up in the lights and the cameras, but at the end of the day, it’s still football.”
In its most recent visit to Tiger Stadium, Northwestern State (0-2) faced a No. 2-ranked LSU squad. This time around, it runs into another top-five-ranked Tigers team, one that brings plenty of momentum with it.
The Tigers went on the road and defeated then-No. 9 Texas, 45-38, behind 471 passing yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Joe Burrow.
Again, the Demons will rely on past experiences against top-flight competition in preparing for the Tigers and for the Tiger Stadium atmosphere.
“You’re talking about a top-five team,” second-year head coach Brad Laird said. “For us to get the opportunity to go there and play them is great. The guys who experience (playing at Texas A&M) will be able to carry it over somewhat. Each and every game is different. Football is football whether nobody’s on the visitor’s side or there’s 100,000 people there. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to play a top-five team in Tiger Stadium.”
Northwestern State has dropped its first two games of the season but, in Laird’s estimation, played better in its first road game of the season than in its home opener.
That trip and the opponent were much different than the ones facing Northwestern State on Saturday. Instead of a trip that took more than eight hours on a bus, Saturday’s sojourn will be a down-and-back trip similar to what the Demons do for visits to Stephen F. Austin.
Laird said one thing won’t change – the Demons’ focus.
“Our focal point is about us,” he said. “This team has to find a way each and every day to get better and, ultimately, be the best team we can be. We haven’t done that, not in all phases.
“We’ve done them at certain times well, but we have not been consistent in doing that. Our focal point has been us and our preparation no matter who we play Saturday. When I met with the team Sunday and talked about our keys to victory, our final key has been what it was all season – be 1-0 this week.”