NATCHITOCHES The punting of Marshall Burton and a Purple Swarm defense that rose to the occasion helped propel Northwestern State to a season-opening road win over a Division I-A opponent last year, and for NSU to knock off Kansas Saturday night, that combination will be pivotal, coach Scott Stoker said Wednesday. ³Itıs at the heart of the game play great defense and field position football, minimize turnovers, and you are going to be in the game with a chance to win in the fourth quarter,² said Stoker. ³We won at year at (Louisiana-) Monroe because to a large degree, Marshallıs punting helped us win the field position battle and our defense made some big plays and forced a couple of turnovers to preserve our lead.² The Demons forced three turnovers in their 27-23 victory at ULM last Sept. 1, including an interception near the goalline in the waning minutes by Baltimore Ravens rookie cornerback David Pittman and a fumble near midfield recovered by Russ Washington with just over a minute to go, ending ULMıs final possession. Little did Stoker and the Demons know that the three turnovers forced would be followed by only 14 more created by the Purple Swarm in the next nine games, leaving NSU with only 17 takeaways all season. The 1.7 per game average was the worst in school history. ³Thatıs so critical,² said Stoker. ³To say weıve made attacking the ball a priority on defense is an understatement. That was a freaky stat, a once in 50 years stat, we hope. But we have to do a better job of making turnovers happen.² Meanwhile, Burton won Southland Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors after the win over ULM for averaging 48.4 yards on five punts, including a 77-yarder that ranks as the second-longest in 97 years of Demon football, missing the record by a yard. ³Marshall turned the field over for us again and again that night and a lot of times all of last season,² said Stoker. ³Heıs as big a weapon for us as a playmaking receiver because he can change field position by big chunks in one play. Heıs been more consistent in preseason camp and if that continues and we do a better job on defense, that combination will be big for us.² Burton, a 2005 All-SLC Academic selection, wound up last year with a 38.4 average and had 17 punts downed inside the 20 with only three touchbacks. Opponents averaged just 5.4 yards per return. The Demons finished their most intense preparations for the Jayhawks in their Wednesday morning workout in full gear. Thursday morning, they will polish the game plan and review special situations, placing heavy emphasis in the kicking game.