Nicholls holds off Southeastern, 21-16, in 2023 River Bell Classic

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(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

HAMMOND, La. – The Southeastern Louisiana University football team closed out the 2023 season with a narrow 21-16 Southland Conference loss to Nicholls in the River Bell Classic Thursday night in Strawberry Stadium.

Southeastern (3-8, 3-4 SLC) could not ever fully overcome an eight-point deficit in the loss. The Lions took over with just over two minutes left, but the SLC champion Colonels (6-4, 7-0 SLC) sacked Eli Sawyer on consecutive plays to close out the victory.

Prior to the game, Southeastern honored the 2023 senior class of Herman Christophe IV, Tyrone Legette, Arlen Williams, Zachary Clement, Jacob Logan, Victor Tademy, Austin Dunlap, Rob Buquoi, Anthony Britton Jr., Mateo Rengifo, Taylor Martin, Garrett Crawford, John Allen, Rodney Sopsher, Slade Ziegler, Korey Karbowsky, William Granville, Jalen Bell, Marcellus Johnson, Tanner Olsen and Tyrik Mitchell.

The SLU defense kept Southeastern within striking distance. Ian Conerly-Goodly and Britton Jr. shared the team lead with eight tackles apiece, while Conerly-Goodly also recorded an interception. Britton Jr. added a sack, while Mitchell forced a fumble that Williams recovered.

The Southeastern offense finished with 218 yards of total offense. Clement went the majority of the way under center, finishing 12-for-25 for 98 yards. Rodeo Graham Jr. led the Lions with 58 yards on the ground on 13 totes.

Nicholls did the majority of its damage offensively through the air, as Pat McQuaide finished 20-for-25 for 300 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. David Robinson Jr. and Jaylon Spears each caught touchdown passes, while Spears also contributed at team-high 58 yards on the ground.

In his final game as a Lion, Dunlap averaged 50.6 yards per punt. Darius Lewis was also a key contributor on special teams for Southeastern, averaging 23.7 yards per punt return.

After Southeastern forced a three-and-out, Lewis broke loose for a 38-yard punt return into Colonel territory. SLU’s drive bogged down in the red zone, but the Lions faked a field goal and Justin Dumas raced in from six yards out to stake Southeastern to a 7-0 lead with 9:49 left in the opening quarter.

The two teams traded punts until Nicholls tied it up with a 12-play, 69-yard march that went into the second quarter. McQuaide scrambled in from three yards out to knot the score at 7-7 with 14:28 left in the second quarter.

After a Southeastern punt, Nicholls took its first lead. Robinson Jr. ran under a McQuaide pass and took it to the house from 79 yards out to put the Colonels up, 14-7, with 8:17 left in the opening half.

Southeastern embarked on an 11-play, 64-yard drive that Riley Callaghan capped with a 31-yard field goal. The next Nicholls drive ended with a strip by Mitchell that Williams fell on. Callaghan turned the turnover into more points, connecting on a 26-yard field goal to bring the Lions within, 14-13, heading into halftime.

After a SLU three-and-out, Nicholls extended its lead. On third-and-long, Spears took a swing pass, slipped several tackles and raced in from 73 yards to put the Colonels up, 21-13, with 11:40 remaining in the third quarter.

The two teams traded punts and another good Lewis punt return gave Southeastern the ball at the Colonel 28-yard line. SLU could not take advantage of the good field position, as Callaghan pushed a 41-yard field goal wide left to keep the score at 21-13 with just under six minutes left in the third period.

On the next drive, Conerly-Goodly stepped in front of a McQuaide pass. The Lions took advantage of the advantageous field position, as Callaghan knocked in a 36-yard field goal to pull the Lions within, 21-16, heading into the final quarter.

Southeastern forced a Nicholls punt and drove deep into Colonel territory. However, the drive stalled and Callaghan missed a 30-yard field goal off the right upright to keep the deficit at 21-16 with 9:33 remaining.

The teams traded punts until Southeastern took over at its 12-yard line with 2:01 left. Sawyer completed a pass to Harlan Dixon to set up a third-and-short, but Zack Bernard, Perry Ganci and Jacob Parker combined for a pair of sacks to turn the Lions over on downs and clinch the win.

NICH – 0 14 7 0 – 21 (6-4, 7-0 SLC)
SLU – 7 6 3 0 – 16 (3-8, 3-4 SLC)

Scoring Summary
1st Quarter
SLU – Dumas 6 run (Callaghan kick), 9:49
2nd Quarter
NICH – McQuaide 3 run (Lasseigne kick), 14:28
NICH – Robinson Jr. 79 pass from McQuaide (Lasseigne kick), 8:17
SLU – Callaghan 31 FG, 2:53
SLU – Callaghan 26 FG, 0:10
3rd Quarter
NICH – Spears 73 pass from McQuaide (Lasseigne kick), 11:40
SLU – Callaghan 36 FG, 1:15
4th Quarter
No Scoring

RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 33-89 37-113
Passes Att-Comp-Int 26-21-1 28-13-0
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 1-17 4-86
Punt Returns-Yards 1-2 3-71
Interception Returns-Yards 0-0 1-0
Punts (Number-Avg) 6-40.7 5-50.6 51, Robi
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 10-90 4-27
Possession Time. 30:59 29:01
Third-Down Conversions 5-13 2-16
Fourth-Down Conversions 0-0 2-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 1-2 1-5

RUSHING: NICH – Spears 14-58, Guggenheim 12-47, Team 4-(-4), McQuaide 3-(-12). Totals – 33-89. SLU – Graham Jr. 11-58, Clement 15-56, Dixon 4-14, Dumas 1-6, Jackson 2-3, Sharp 1-(-2), Sawyer 3-(-22). Totals – 37-113.

PASSING: NICH – McQuaide 20-25-1-300-2, Guggenheim 1-1-0-3-0. Totals – 21-26-1-303-2. SLU – Clement 12-25-0-98-0, Sawyer 1-3-0-7-0. Totals – 13-28-0-105-0.

RECEIVING: NICH – Lemay 6-51, Robinson 4-91, Spears 4-86, Brown 4-52, Negrotto 2-13, Matthews 1-10. Totals – 21-303. SLU – Hill 3-52, Dixon 3-15, Logan 2-17, Sharp 2-8, Lewis 2-7, Domingeaux 1-6. Totals – 13-105.

A – 5,398.

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