NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State’s quarterback competition isn’t settled as hoped, Demon coach Jay Thomas said Tuesday, but a plan is coming together for Saturday evening’s Southland Conference home game against Central Arkansas.
Last Saturday’s visit to Mississippi State figured to help set the pecking order between (alphabetically) J.D. Almond, Joel Blumenthal, Daniel Hazlewood and Stephen Rivers. Each quarterback was assigned a quarter to play, with Almond up first as NSU’s third starter in as many weeks, based on his impressive college debut a week earlier at UL Lafayette.
“They all played well,” said Thomas. “They all did things we liked, against a very good SEC West defense.”
Almond led a game-opening 58-yard march with a third-down pass into the end zone knocked away, and a fourth-down fake field goal getting repelled by the Bulldogs. Rivers had his best outing, guiding an 11-play, 66-yard drive for a field goal and producing five first downs in 20 second-period snaps.
Blumenthal opened the second half steering a 12-play, 72-yard march culminating in De’Mard Llorens’ 10-yard TD run and the Demons stacked up seven first downs in his 22 plays. With State grinding the clock in the fourth quarter, Hazlewood got only seven plays, but produced 36 yards and two first downs, grading 100 percent while the other three contenders graded between 80 and 90 percent.
“I am traditionally a one-quarterback coach, but because of the parity between them, we’ve given them more chances,” said Thomas. “Going into this week, we’ll once again be in a quarterback rotation, based off how the game’s going.
“It’s a little different than last week, when we wanted to get each guy a quarter and evaluate how they did,” he said. “We’ll continue that process but we’ll play it by ear as the game unfolds.
“The rotation is something we meet on every day, myself and the offensive staff, to discuss our plan throughout the course of the week,” he said. “It’ll work itself out. It usually does.”
UCA coach Steve Campbell said the Demons’ foursome provides a unique challenge for the Bears.
“Each one of them brings a little different skill set to the table,” said Campbell. “They’ve moved the ball against everybody they’ve played, and they’ve played some very tough opponents. It’s hard to game plan for four different guys so you try to make sure you have all your bases covered no matter who’s in the game.
“All of them are dual threat guys. Some run better, some throw better but they can all run and they can all throw. The game plan doesn’t change, you just prepare for their formations and their personnel groupings, and play assignment football,” he said.
Both teams are seeking their first win. UCA has played a 2-1 Samford team (a 45-16 loss) and visited Oklahoma State (falling 32-8) before an open date last week.
It’s the Southland opener for the Bears while the Demons lost their season and league debut 34-20 to Southeastern Louisiana, who scored a clinching touchdown with 61 seconds to go. Kickoff is 6:06 for the contest carried by ESPN3.
— Northwestern State Sports Information