“Our maturity level needs to get better,” Thomas said. “We need to continue to make a step forward in that direction as we prepare for another tough challenge this week going over to UAB. Last week, we stabilized. We didn’t make that step that we needed to make going into the third ballgame. Going in to this fourth ballgame, we need to make that step and make it a positive step.”
NSU (2-1) gave up 669 yards in Cincinnati’s 66-9 rout and Thomas stressed that his team has to do better on the defensive end against the Blazers.
“UAB presents a lot of problems,” Thomas said. “They are very big and physical on the offensive line. Their running game is good. They rushed for 160 yards against LSU, that’s impressive.”
UAB (0-2) averages 134 yards on the ground this season and have running back Darrin Reaves to thank for that. The junior leads the UAB with 188 yards on 36 carries---including a 104-yard performance in the Blazers 34-31 overtime loss to Troy Aug. 31.
The Blazers pose another threat in junior wide receiver Jamarcus Nelson---who leads Conference USA with 120.5 receiving yards per game. Nelson had 10 catches for 199 yards and two touchdowns against Troy and Thomas is well aware that NSU has to account for him too.
“[They are] probably similar to Cincinnati,” Thomas said. “The gameplan will be similar. We have to do a good job on defense and defending the run and defending the playaction pass. We have to get better in those areas.”
On offense, NSU is looking to bounce back from only gaining 179 yards and converting just two out their 14 third-down conversions.
“Offensively, we have to get our run game established,” Thomas said. “UAB’s defense is similar to Cincinnati’s defense---a lot of length and speed across the board.”
The Blazers rank last in total defense in Conference USA, however they cause turnovers---forcing four fumbles and recovering three.
Despite the outcome of the Bearcats game, Thomas was able to extract a few positives from the tough loss.
“It was a great opportunity to play Cincinnati,” Thomas said. “They were able to expose us in a lot of different areas, but now our guys understand now, ‘At practice, I need to pay attention to doing these other little things correctly, because we can get exposed playing a good opponent.’”
Much like in the game against Southern, Thomas was able to turn to his second- and third-stringers to give them a chance to play once the game got of hand.
“We’re still in evaluation mode with a lot of our guys and we’re still in the developmental mode with our backups,” Thomas said. “When it gets that way, it gives you an opportunity to get your backups in there to evaluate them going against top notch talent. It gives us a better idea as we prepare into the next ballgame.”
The Demons went to practice this week working on what went wrong and hoping to get better.
“Our guys are still encouraged,” Thomas said. “We came in Sunday night and got everything reviewed and fixed whatever problems needed to be fixed. It ought to be an exciting ballgame.”
The Demons and Blazers will do battle at 2 p.m. at Legion Field.