Nicholls newcomer Fonseca boots game-winner to down McNeese, 37-35

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Nicholls beats McNeese at the gun, 37-35
Photo: Misty Leigh McElroy/Nicholls Athletics

THIBODAUX, La. – Playing in his first game as a Colonel, junior kicker Lorran Fonseca split the uprights from 32-yards out as time expired, lifting the Nicholls State University football team to a 37-35 victory over rival McNeese Thursday night at John L. Guidry Stadium.

Following a first half that saw McNeese (0-1) head into the locker room with a 9-7 lead, the teams combined for eight touchdowns after the break, with the last coming with 3:02 remaining in the game that gave McNeese a 35-34 lead. Cornerback Christian Boutte was able to knock down the two-point conversion pass attempt to keep the deficit at one.

On the ensuing possession, Chase Fourcade and Dontrell Taylor had key runs to move the ball into McNeese territory before the Cowboys were flagged for pass interference. Taylor rushed again for 8 yards and Nicholls then called a timeout with four seconds remaining to set up the game-winner.

On his first career field goal try, the Hercules, California native left no doubt about the kick as it sailed right down the middle, sending the Colonels and their hometown fans into a frenzy.

“Bottom line is you get that ‘W.’ We’re 1-0,” said head coach Tim Rebowe. “McNeese is a good football team, but we made enough mistakes tonight to fill up a whole entire book. I don’t know how many times you can turn the ball over and make those mistakes, but we found a way to win this game tonight. Our guys stayed in there; kept fighting and punching and it was good to get that kick to go through at the end.”

The win snapped an eight-game skid in the series against the Cowboys, but more important, it gave the Colonels a 1-0 record to start conference play. The victory was also the first season-opening win for Coach Rebowe after two setbacks against FBS programs.

On paper, McNeese had over 100 yards more of total offense (432-304) and doubled the Colonels in time of possession, but the home team made big play after big play to keep pace.

McNeese moved the ball up-and-down the field in the first half, but the defense was stout in the red zone and limited the Cowboys to three field goals by Trent Manuel. The Colonels’ lone touchdown in the half, which gave them a 7-3 lead, came on a 62-yard reception by Damion Jeanpiere Jr. from Chase Fourcade. It was Jeanpiere’s longest career reception until he dazzled the crowd in the second half with a 77-yard touchdown. He finished the game with three receptions for 145 yards and two scores.

McNeese had a chance to extend the lead right before the half, but Jay Jay Smith made one of the several momentum-swinging plays on special teams by both squads as he blocked a field goal. Earlier in the quarter, McNeese blocked a punt which led to a field goal.

In the second half, the Cowboys blocked another punt and despite facing a third-and-30 after three penalties, James Tabary hit Tavarious Battiste for a touchdown for a 16-7 lead. The Colonels countered with a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jonovan Lewis, but McNeese answered right back after a fumble to score on another TD pass by Tabary.

To close out the scoring in the quarter, Fourcade hit Jeanpiere 20 yards downfield before the junior took care of the rest, weaving and racing down the field for the 77-yard touchdown.

McNeese pushed its lead to 29-21 on another Tabary touchdown pass in the fourth before Nicholls capped a 9-play, 65-yard drive on a 12-yard touchdown catch from Raheem Falkins. The Colonels finally grabbed the lead again with 5:43 to go when Fourcade shook the Cowboy defenders on a 19-yard touchdown run. But Nicholls failed on the two-point try, keeping the lead at 34-29.

McNeese scored the final touchdown of the game courtesy of Nick Edwards on a 10-yard run.

Fourcade finished with 213 yards passing and three touchdowns on 10-of-21, and added another 49 yards on the ground. Nicholls was held to just 91 yards rushing on 27 carries.

Tabary was 25-of-42 with 238 yards passing and three touchdowns, but had two interceptions and was sacked four times. Two of the sacks came from senior Terrell Encalade while Sully Laiche and Marcel Andry each had one. Allen Pittman led the Colonels with nine tackles and Hezekiah White picked off a pass to set up Fourcade’s touchdown run.

UP NEXT

Nicholls will head to Texas A&M for a Sept. 9 matchup with the Aggies on ESPNU. Kickoff in College Station is scheduled for 6 p.m.

For the latest news on Colonel football, follow the team on Twitter @Nicholls_FB.

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