“We will be ready, no doubt,” he said Sunday evening after meeting with his team. “I said after the game last night that I would get them ready, but looking at our seniors, especially, in the Ready Room tonight, I believe they’re going to handle that business.”
There was no mistaking the level of frustration, however, in the wake of a 43-17 loss to No. 9 McNeese at Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles Saturday night. The Demons had the upper hand early, but the Cowboys dominated the third period and took command.
“The kids hung in there. I was proud of them for battling through the frustration because they wanted that game very badly,” said Thomas. “Now we have another big rivalry game and we can get a lot accomplished and end this season right.”
Since 1961, NSU and SFA have played for the largest trophy in sports, Chief Caddo, a 7-foot-6, 320-pound statue of a mythical Native American figure, paying homage to the heritage of the universities’ home region.
The Demons (5-6 overall) haven’t won the trophy since 2008, the last time they had a .500 or better season. Both goals are within reach Saturday.
“It’s big, of course, for our (23) seniors, and for our underclassmen, it’s their last chance to make a good impression and set a great tone for our offseason going into next season,” said Thomas. “We want the Chief back here. We want a six-win season. We want Thanksgiving dinner to taste just right.”
The Demons’ first-year head coach said he had a sleepless night after the team’s return from Lake Charles.
“We played hard, but we didn’t always play smart and get where we needed to be. That’s also a credit to McNeese because they changed up a few things, had a good game plan and it eventually took its toll,” he said.
“We missed opportunities early in the game and that was critical. They came up with a great goalline stand and we only got three points. We moved near the red zone two other times and got no points. Against a team that good, we needed to make the most of every opportunity,” said Thomas.
“They controlled the third quarter and most of the fourth (holding possession for 23 of 30 minutes) but even on those long drives (11 plays, 80 yards; 16 plays, 83 yards; 12 plays, 74 yards), we battled hard and extended them to a lot of third downs they had to convert. They won third down on both sides of the ball and that was a big difference,” he said.
The Demons did get a sensational play for their final score.
Sophomore receiver Ed Eagan, despite a McNeese defender tugging on one arm enough to draw a pass interference flag, made a leaping, one-handed grab in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown from Zach Adkins with 4:35 left.
Adkins threw for 242 yards, tying the school single-season pass yardage mark (2,393 yards).
Senior Louis Hollier moved into third all-time at NSU in receptions (107, two shy of second and 19 away from the record) and 12th place on the Demons’ career receiving yardage list (1,283) with a six-catch, 106-yard performance, including a 34-yard touchdown to open the scoring.