NATCHITOCHES - With Lamont Simmons' 24-yard fumble return and a 99-yard kickoff return by Phillip Harvey, Northwestern State scored the first time it touched the ball in both halves Saturday night while smashing old rival Southeastern Louisiana 51-17 in Southland Conference football.
Simmons scooped up the fumble and scored on the game's first play. Harvey took the second half kickoff back for a touchdown, lifting NSU up 34-3, on the way to tying a school record for kickoff return yardage (193 yards on three attempts).
The Demons, heading into an open date and celebrating homecoming in front of 10,285 at Turpin Stadium, led 17-0 less than five minutes into the contest and 27-3 after the first quarter. They won their second straight, improving to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference, while the Lions (1-5, 0-3) fell for the fourth straight time.
Northwestern cracked the 50-point barrier in a Southland game for the first time since routing Sam Houston State 59-3 in 1998. It was the highest point total by the Demons since a 63-12 romp over Division II Southeast Oklahoma in 2008 and the most points against a Division I team since 2004 and a 52-6 romp over Texas Southern.
"I thought the fumble return set the tone, and we really got on a roll then," said third-year NSU coach Bradley Dale Peveto. "With the Southeastern offense being so explosive, I didn't think we had the game secured until we got to 48 points, but it was great starting the second half with Phillip's kickoff return.
"This was a complete team win for us in all three phases, offense, defense and special teams," said Peveto. "We knew Southeastern is a dangerous team with a lot of playmakers on offense and we had a very mature approach to the game, which showed in the way we played tonight."
Northwestern got its first career 100-yard rushing game from sophomore D.J. Palmer, whose 15 for 102 yards output included an 82-yard touchdown just 4:25 into the contest for a 17-0 lead.
Fellow true sophomore Rumeall Morris scored twice, on a 28-yard reception from Brad Henderson 11 minutes into the game for a 24-3 lead, and on an 11-yard run with 4:09 to go in the third quarter making it 48-10.
Henderson also threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Justin Aldredge while John Shaughnessy kicked field goals of 44, 24 and 45 yards.
The Demons grinded 37 minutes off the clock while posting 223 rushing yards and adding 160 in the air.
The Lions got a career-best 355 pass yards from Brian Young, but he was intercepted four times, twice by Jamaal White.
Northwestern used five different tailbacks and got backup quarterback Don Canyon his first extensive action in the second half.
"We were hoping to play a lot of people, and we did," said Peveto. "Our team earned that opportunity. This is without a doubt the best overall performance we've had in my three years here, and now we get to rest and get ready for the stretch run."
The Demons, open next week, play again in a non-conference game Oct. 29 at Texas State, then host SLC foe Central Arkansas on Nov. 5.