Nicholls falters in home finale against No. 17 UIW, 27-23
THIBODAUX, La. – Facing off against one of the top FCS offenses in the nation, the Nicholls State University football team did more than enough to limit the high-flying No. 17/21 UIW Cardinals, but inopportune turnovers that have plagued the team for much of the season hampered the Colonels once again as they fell short of knocking off the conference front runner, 27-23, Saturday on Manning Field at John L. Guidry Stadium.
Although the setback eliminates the Colonels’ (5-5, 4-3 SLC) chance to earn their third title in the last three fall seasons, Nicholls can secure a fifth consecutive winning season – a feat never accomplished in program history – in its Thursday matchup against Southeastern.
The Colonels used both quarterbacks against UIW (8-2, 6-1 SLC) and it was Lindsey Scott Jr. who led the offense in its final drive. Trailing by four points with just under eight minutes remaining in the game, Nicholls reached the red zone after a huge 21-yard fourth-down catch by Al’Dontre Davis. However, on third and fourth down, Scott went to his go-to receiver Dai’Jean Dixon on the final two plays, with the last toss sailing just high past the outreached hands of Dixon in the back of the endzone. With only one timeout and two minutes remaining, Nicholls needed a 3-and-out but Kevin Brown rushed for a first down to secure head coach Eric Morris’ first win in Thibodaux.
Nicholls kept UIW quarterback Cameron Ward under duress for most of the day, limiting him to 13 of 30 passing for 108 yards and two touchdowns. In the earlier win over the Colonels, Ward torched the defense for nearly 400 yards through the air and four touchdowns. However, UIW still used big plays to find points on Saturday, scoring on two long runs by Brown. With Nicholls leading 20-13 in the third, Brown tied the game on a 55-yard score and then gave them the lead when he broke free up the middle for an 85-yard touchdown. Brown carried the ball only 11 times but rushed for 185 yards.
The Colonels came up empty in responding to both of the scoring drives, following the first with an unfortunate interception. From the UIW 7, Scott fired a pass inside to Arron McKenney and instead of falling to the ground for an incompletion, the ball rested on a Cardinal defender and was snagged by another for the pick in the red zone. After the second long TD by Brown, a low snap ended the Colonels’ drive on fourth down in Cardinal territory.
One of the 11 Seniors celebrating their final game at Guidry Stadium, Kevin Johnson totaled two interceptions for the first time in career. Although not a senior, Jordan Jackson also had a standout play he chased Ward down on a long run and stripped him before reaching the goal line, allowing Nicholls to recover in the end zone for a touchback. The Colonels then scored on a career-long 45-yard field goal by Gavin Lasseigne to make it 27-23 Cardinals.
But that would be the final points of the game. With a lost fumble and three turnovers on downs, the Colonels were held to three points in the second half after being shut out in the final 30 minutes against UIW in San Antonio in October.
Nicholls had a handful of outstanding performers on offense, paced by Walter Payton Award Watch List honoree Dixon. Needing only 88 yards for his second 1,000-yard season, Dixon hauled in eight receptions for 90 yards. Davis posted a career day with 56 yards on four grabs, which included a highlight 21-yard touchdown catch from Kohen Granier for the first touchdown of the game. In the backfield, Collin Guggenheim rushed for over 100 yards for the fourth straight outing, carrying the ball a career-high 32 times for 141 yards and a touchdown.
At quarterback, Granier was 18 of 27 for 191 yards while Scott threw for 80 yards and had the one interception. He also ran the ball nine times for 49 yards.
Nicholls will put a bow on the fall season with its annual River Bell Classic against Southeastern. Kickoff on Thursday, Nov. 18 is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Strawberry Stadium.
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