NATCHITOCHES - Northwestern State football coach Bradley Dale Peveto knows all about playing in Tiger Stadium, from his four years at LSU as an assistant coach for Les Miles, and he's counting on strength in numbers when the Demons take on the No. 2 Tigers Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
"We're bringing every one of our guys, all 115, dressing them out. We will not be outnumbered between the goalposts," he said Tuesday.
While Northwestern is about to sell out of its 4,000-ticket allotment with hundreds more Demon supporters having gotten their tickets through LSU channels, Peveto knows nearly all of the 92,400 fans at Tiger Stadium will provide another challenge for the Northwestern players.
"We're embracing it. I can try to describe it, but until our guys hit that field and experience the thrill of Tiger Stadium, what I say won't do it justice. There's no place better in college football. LSU's fans make it that way, and hopefully we can earn their respect with the way we compete," he said.
The Demons (1-0) rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit and beat the No. 2 team in Division II, Delta State, 24-23 last Thursday night. They watched the Tigers dismantle Oregon 40-27 Saturday night.
"I don't see a weakness," said Peveto, linebackers coach on LSU's 2007 BCS national championship team.
Northwestern players are following their coach's positive approach about the first meeting between the schools since 1942.
"Personally, I look forward to facing the LSU offense," said senior cornerback Cashas Pollard, who had an interception to spark the go-ahead touchdown drive last week. "You watch TV, you see these guys, they're very talented. As a competitor, you think, 'I can cover this guy.' It's a challenge. Now I get the chance.
"Looking at their receivers, they're very big, and very fast. I've got to play very disciplined coverage and have my eyes in the right place," said Pollard.
The prospect of teeing it up in Tiger Stadium appeals to him.
"I've got a friend who plays at Tennessee, and he told me the stadium gets so loud, it's like constant static. You can't hear the person playing next to you. That's the kind of atmosphere a competitor will embrace," said Pollard. "I watch Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas, and now I get to step out there and play in probably the best (stadium) of them all, and give it my best shot. It's exciting."
Junior defensive end Wade Williams is, like Pollard, a native Texan, but is full of anticipation about Saturday.
"They're a great team, always have been. LSU's kind of the big brother to all college football programs in this state, and a lot of my teammates from Louisiana grew up dreaming of playing there. Having that opportunity is exciting," he said. "Tiger Stadium is a great venue, those are great fans, and there aren't many FCS teams that get this chance.
"It's going to be an honor to play them, and play there, but we are going in there with the same goal we have every game. We're looking to win. It's a great challenge, but we'll give it everything we have and believe in each other, and we'll compete," said Williams.
NSU's Southland Conference rival McNeese was the first in-state FCS team to play in Tiger Stadium in the modern era of college football when the Cowboys visited LSU last Oct. 16 and were highly competitive in a 32-10 defeat not settled until the Tigers scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
"What McNeese did last year really brought a lot of respect to our conference, and it is absolutely a confidence boost for us," said Williams. "Hopefully we can bring the same level of play into Tiger Stadium and make it a four-quarter game."
One of the heroes of the Demons' opening win was a newcomer, junior college transfer Brad Henderson. He came off the bench to steer the NSU offense to four scores in its first five series after halftime, completing his first 13 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown, before a dropped pass kept him from a perfect 14-for-14 in his first Division I game.
The 13 straight completions broke a school record and helped Henderson earn LSWA "Offensive Player of the Week" honors Monday.
"I'd never set a school record before, and it's not one of those things you think about. My sole purpose was to help my team get the win. It was my first game at this level, and my number was called, and I had to do all I could do," he said.
"My teammates gave me the support I needed. I was nervous. It was the biggest stadium I have ever played in.
"Until this week," said Henderson, smiling.