The Demons (3-3 overall, 1-1 in the Southland) more than doubled their season sack total with a consistently fierce pass rush, leaned on one running back (Rob Walker with 23 carries and 103 yards rushing) and introduced Harvey, a dangerous receiver and returner, as the triggerman in the wildcat formation with great success.
Harvey posted 187 all-purpose yards despite Lamar trying to avoid allowing him return opportunities, using bouncing kickoffs and sky kicks, and punting out of bounds, giving up field position in the process. NSU averaged starting at its own 46.
The Demons' first touchdown was a darting 26-yard scamper by Harvey, who posted 87 yards on seven runs. He moved up to 10th nationally with a 170.2 all-purpose yardage average per game.
“Phil had a real good game,” said NSU head coach Bradley Dale Peveto. “He ran the ball, he caught the ball, he had some good returns. We're doing a real good job of getting him the ball and he's doing a real good job when he has it.”
The Demons notched five sacks after recording only four in their first five outings. The final one played a huge role in the outcome. Junior defensive tackle Lesley Deamer slammed Lamar passer Caleb Berry for a 15-yard loss, knocked the ball loose at the Cardinals' 5-yard line and recovered the fumble with 7:28 to play and NSU nursing a 20-17 edge. Walker scored two snaps later on a 3-yard run that proved to be the decisive points.
“We went with a money package on third down, where we got more ends out there to rush the quarterback,” said Peveto. “With a four-man rush, we got hits and sacks on the quarterback, and it helped us get off the field. Deamer made a tremendous play that changed the game.”
NSU's defense was dominant much of the night. Lamar had only 207 yards until its final drive, in the game's last three minutes after John Shaugnessy added his third field goal to push the Demons ahead 30-17.
“Lamar gave us a lot of problems with their formations and schemes, bunches, empties and motions. Our guys did a great job of executing our plans. We minimized the big plays and made them earn it.”said Peveto. “We did a good job of getting turnovers (recovering three fumbles and getting an interception). The defense really played well tonight. That last drive, when we were in a prevent mode, allowed them some yards that took away from how statistically good we were.
“We did a good job of tackling, we stripped well, and we caused turnovers on the plus end of the field that led to points for us. That had a lot to do with this win.”
Walker became the first NSU running back in nine games to rush for 100 yards, and his 23 carries are the most by a Demon in 41 games dating back to late in the 2008 season. The 206-yard rushing total was the second over 200 this season for Northwestern.
“Rob ran the ball hard, earned yards, and he was physical. We came in wanting to be aggressive with our run game,” said Peveto. “We made some yards when we needed to, and Rob and our offensive line deserve a lot of credit for the outcome tonight.”
The Demons took Sunday off and will review game tape Monday evening along with getting introduced to the game play for Saturday afternoon's visit to league-leading Southeastern Louisiana, the only unbeaten team in the Southland with a 2-0 SLC mark. The 3 p.m. contest at Strawberry Stadium in Hammond will be shown regionally by Southland TV.