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Archive for Saturday, August 12, 2006

Demons no sure victory

Sept. 2: Northwestern, La., State

August 12, 2006

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Kansas University will open its season Sept. 2 with an NCAA Division I-AA foe, and while that usually points to a sure victory, that's hardly the case when you consider the opponent.

Northwestern State, located in Natchitoches, La., quickly is becoming known as a I-A killer, perhaps the best in I-AA at doing so.

While Division I-A teams were 50-1 against I-AA squads in 2005, that lone setback came on the season's opening week, and the Demons did it in a 27-23 victory over Louisiana-Monroe.

It was no fluke, either. The Demons beat ULM in 2003, too, and have played tight games with I-A foes each of the last three seasons, losing to Tulane by a field goal and Louisiana-Lafayette by a touchdown.

"I don't think our kids back down from anything," NSU coach Scott Stoker said. "We play in a very tough league, and to play in that tough league you have to play tough competition. We have played well against some of them (I-A teams).

"Obviously, it's a little bit different every year because every team is a little bit different."

To go along with Northwestern State's rugged Southland Conference schedule, the Demons have a murderous nonconference slate this season with games against Baylor and Mississippi as well as KU.

"I think they benefit you in a lot of ways in recruiting," Stoker said of I-A games. "Everyone wants to play the best possible teams you can play out there. If you put out there that you're playing the toughest schedule in the country, it gives your kid something to get motivated for."

The Demons, after beating Louisiana-Monroe to start the season, catapulted to No. 9 in the I-AA Top 25.

Inconsistency and injuries, however, contributed to a final record of 5-5. A game against Texas Southern was canceled because of Hurricane Rita.

Stoker said eight starters from 2005 didn't participate in spring football while recovering from in-season injuries, but he's holding out hope his team will be healthy by the time it treks to Lawrence for the season opener.

"I hope we are," Stoker said, "I think we have a chance to be."

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