The Demons play host to Division II Arkansas-Monticello, which opened its season running an offense very much like Texas Tech's while smashing outmanned Faith Christian 78-0. NSU dumped UAM 20-3 in the 2006 season in the only previous meeting between the teams.
While NSU won't practice until Tuesday afternoon following its return from Lubbock, the Demons did go through weights and conditioning work Monday and had meetings Monday evening. Peveto was encouraged by the team's initial reaction following the opening game.
“We were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after the game. I got after them pretty good in the locker room, told them we've got to grow up, we've got to execute better,” he said. “We were disappointed in our play. This team expects more of itself.”
While a lackluster offensive output (84 total yards, six first downs) was obvious, Peveto saw a more broad task ahead after watching game tape and reflecting on the outcome.
“All three phases have to take care of each other. We've got to grow up as a team, not pinpointing one spot, one area, one person. We're very, very close to getting past that point and we have to grow up, mature, between now and Saturday night's game. What happened in Lubbock came down to too many missed opportunities in all three phases.”
NSU came up with no points after an interception and 48-yard Calvin Morton return started the Demons first offensive series at the Red Raiders 36. In the third quarter, Pat Black recovered a fumble at the TTU 19, but a sack on first down kept Brad Henderson from getting the ball to a wide-open Phil Harvey behind coverage, and the visitors settled for a 46-yard John Shaughnessy field goal.
“Defensively, we didn't get off the field on third down in the first half (as Tech converted 10-11 of its third downs) and had too many foolish penalties that kept their drives alive,” said Peveto. “I was proud that we tackled well in space and played very physical. We did not give up big plays, and our young corners held up against the deep ball really well. Our effort was tremendous.
“Offensively the missed opportunities really stung, especially right off the bat. When we get the ball down near the red zone after a turnover on the plus side, we've got to score. We got a fantastic effort, but not a good performance.
“You have to give Texas Tech a lot of credit for our struggles, and it was a combination of Texas Tech playing good and our execution not being up to the level we needed playing a Big XII opponent. We'll be better. We have some things we're going to do that will help us and we will be better Saturday night and going forward,” said Peveto.
The Red Raiders averaged a modest 3.9 yards per rush and had only three plays over 20 yards, with the longest 23 yards. Their first five scoring drives required 16, 10, 12, 11 and 11 plays.
“I thought we played really well up front defensively. Their offensive line was huge and we really matched their physicality. They did not knock us off the ball. We controlled our gaps, we fit the run well,” said Peveto, also the linebackers coach. “We played really well at the corner spot, played the ball well, defended the deep ball successfully. Our safeties and linebackers did a very good job tackling in space.”
There were some bright spots on the offensive side, none more than senior receiver and returner Phil Harvey.
He broke into the Southland Conference top 10 list and claimed the NSU career kick return yardage record with his opening-game output. Harvey posted 137 yards on six kickoff runbacks, highlighted by a 37-yarder, at Texas Tech. That raised his career yardage total to 1,699 yards on 74 returns, an impressive career 22.9 average.
Harvey erased a 23-year-old school record of 1,642 yards from 1986-89 by Dennis Smith. He moved into eighth place on the Southland's career Top 10 rankings for kickoff returns, and needs 35 yards to take over seventh, 106 yards for sixth place and 156 for fifth. He also topped the Demons with 35 receiving yards on four catches.
“Phil Harvey, on special teams and at receiver, had some nice plays and his speed showed up against a Big XII opponent,” said Peveto. “Corey Simmons had a nice (12-yard) catch at tight end and he's a guy who we feel like needs to get the ball more. In his first game of the year going against a really good defense, (quarterback) Brad Henderson did some good things.”