Nicholls season ends in heartbreak in 38-31 loss to South Dakota
THIBODAUX, La. – Playing in its first-ever home playoff game, the Nicholls State University football team fed off of its electric crowd to take South Dakota down to the wire, but a fumble at the goal line in the final seconds ended the game as the Colonels were defeated, 38-31, Saturday night at Manning Field at John L. Guidry Stadium.
The Colonels (8-4) never led in the contest against South Dakota (8-4), but finally tied the game up at 31 when Lorran Fonseca made a field goal midway in the fourth quarter. The Coyotes then answered a Nicholls’ scoring drive for the fourth time on the night, using a touchdown pass by Walter Payton Award finalist Chris Streveler to regain the lead with less than six minutes to go.
Nicholls got the ball back and moved deep into Coyote territory for a chance to even the game, but Phillip Powell forced a fumble on a Kyran Irvin carry at the goal line with 27 seconds remaining to seal the win for South Dakota in its first-ever playoff appearance.
“I’m just very proud of the effort by our guys. I thought it was a fantastic finish and we laid it on the line,” said Nicholls head football coach Tim Rebowe. “Our guys fought; they kept scrapping and kept punching the whole way through. Hats off to them (South Dakota), they are an outstanding team. We all know how good they were on offense. We gave up some big plays to them, and right after we came back and tied it up, we gave up a big play down the field. We can’t do those things against a good team.”
Both teams had little trouble moving the ball, combining for over 900 yards of total offense. The Coyotes did most of their damage behind the play of Streveler, who threw for 378 and four touchdowns. Nicholls used a balanced attack, finishing with exactly 232 yards passing and rushing.
While the offenses shined for most of the second half, it was the defenses that led to points in the first two quarters. Two early interceptions by Chase Fourcade allowed the Coyotes to jump out to a 14-0 lead. Nicholls was held scoreless until Austin Dickerson came up with a big play for the defense with just over a minute until the break, returning an interception 43 yards for a touchdown. The Coyotes closed out the half with a 39-yard field goal for a 17-7 lead.
The third quarter saw four touchdowns, with South Dakota countering each one by the Colonels with one of their own. Tahj Smith continued his outstanding play of recent, scoring on a 24-yard rush before Streveler hit Brandt Van Roekel for a 47-yard touchdown. Irvin found the end zone on a 2-yard rush to bring the deficit back to three points; however, Streveler answered right back with a 75-yard strike to Trystn Ducker.
In the fourth, a career-long 54 run by Fourcade before the end of the period set up a 1-yard score by Smith. On the next possession, Sully Laiche had the hit of the night, sacking Streveler on third down to force a punt. Fonseca would tie it up with his 19th field goal of the season, this one from 43-yard out.
A costly pass interference on the Colonel defense gave USD a first down on a third-and-long, and Streveler went on to throw for a 10-yard touchdown pass to Van Roekel. The score turned out to be the game-winner as Nicholls suffered its first home loss of the year.
Fourcade finished 21 of 35 for 232 yards but had three interceptions for the second-straight game. He also ran for 77 yards, with Irvin finishing with 88 and Smith had 65 yards and two scores on 13 carries.
Fourcade’s top target was freshman Dai’Jean Dixon, who had 80 yards receiving on a career-high five receptions. Jarrell Rogers added 62 yards on five catches.
Nicholls ends the year with eight wins, its most since the 1996 playoff team. The Colonels drop to 1-4 in their five playoff appearances and end the year with a 5-1 mark at home.
FCS PLAYOFFS – ROUND 1: SOUTH DAKOTA 38, NICHOLLS 31
NOVEMBER 25, 2017
MANNING FIELD AT JOHN L. GUIDRY STADIUM
SOUTH DAKOTA QUOTES
Talk about the last play and what happened?
Well, it was a ‘for the game’ type of situation. Coach called a good blitz and I see the ball squirt out of the gap and I came in and make the play.
Did it seem clear at the time it was a fumble?
What’s going through your mind waiting for the replay?
I’m just screaming that it’s a fumble. I saw the ball hit the ground. I knew it was a fumble the whole way.
What made Nicholls so tough offensively in the second half?
They just executed well. Hats off to them but our defense just buckled down and made a few stops at the end to keep them from scoring.
How did you keep your spirits up in the second half despite giving up some touchdowns?
The coaches just kept motivating us. We never thought the game was out of our hands, we thought we were in control the whole time.
Have you ever been a part of something that wild?
Yeah, playoffs are a different intensity. The ending, the way it was coming down, the stoppages, going back and forth, even the second half, it was so back and forth the whole game, it was fun to be a part of.
Talk about the big plays you guys had.
I got to give coaches a lot of credit, seeing what they were doing defensively and getting us into the right play calls and our players executing and making the plays. Just trying to take advantage of the looks they were giving us and the coaches did a good job of putting us in the right position.
Are big plays normal for you guys?
We’ve had some big plays this season. You never want to have to rely on big plays to put points on the board, but today that’s the way we had to get it done a couple of times. When we had to put together drives, we did that as well. All around I was happy with what we were doing offensively.
I want to tip my cap to Coach Rebowe, his staff and the Nicholls State football team. It was a great football game and they played really well, they executed really well and, in some ways, I thought we were fortunate to win today. But I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. That game kept swinging back and forth and back and forth momentum wise and our guys kept hanging in there. When you play on the road in the playoffs – and I’ve had the opportunity to do that a fair amount of times in my coaching career – this was a great crowd that helped them, you have to find ways to win football games and our guys found a way today.
Did you see anything with that fumble?
Honestly, I thought the spot they reviewed before could have gone either way. The only thing, you try to watch the replay board and you don’t know if that’s everything they have. The guys in our booth were calling down saying the ESPN guys were saying the ball was out. When that came out, I knew those reviews they had that the replay would be overturned.
Talk about the size advantage on both sides of the lines.
That’s interesting because were one of the smallest teams in the Missouri Valley. It’s a difference in personnel. Their defensive front is as good as we’ve played this year. We struggled in the first half with protection. I thought we were better in the second half and gave Chris more time to throw and as a result, he was more effective. We struggled running the football all day and last week we rushed for 250 yards. Good football team, but you’re going to play good teams in the playoffs. I’m proud of our guys to go on the road and get the win.
Head Coach Tim Rebowe
“Just very proud of the effort by our guys. I thought it was a fantastic finish. These guys right here laid it on the line. We had our opportunities all throughout the game. It’s a shame it came down to the last play right there, but that’s not what cost us the game. We had some chances early on. We had a group of seniors that believed in what we’re doing and these underclassmen too did a fantastic job so the future is going to be bright for us.”
On the costly turnovers…
“Any time you get in the red zone – and we talked about it as a staff – you can’t turn the ball over in the red zone against a good football team. We left some points out there on the board. Still all that and we still had a chance at the end to win the game. Our guys fought; they kept scrapping and kept punching the whole way through. Hats off to them, they are an outstanding team. We all know how good they were offensively. We gave up some big plays to them. Right after we came back and tied it up, we gave up a big play down the field. We can’t do those things against a good team.”
On the offense steadily improving throughout the game…
“I thought we moved the ball in the first half. We just didn’t get any points out of it. They were doing some good things. We knew what they were doing up front. They were doing some twists. They got to us a little bit and made a couple plays. The guy right here to my right [Chase Fourcade], who did a good job in the second half executing the offense for us, got us down the field and put the ball in the end zone for us.”
QB Chase Fourcade
On the offense steadily improving throughout the game…
“I thought the run game was there the whole game. Like coach said, we were driving pretty much every possession we had. The first half we just – I just couldn’t punch it in. I had a misread, and I just didn’t do my job in the first half. I started settling in in the third quarter. I knew our defense was going to get stops, but it was all about us making plays, keeping the drive and putting up points.”
On the last play of the game…
“I saw No. 22 [Alex Grey] and Kyran [Irvin] make contact. I thought he got in – I thought he was down. I didn’t see the ball come out. I just saw everybody jumping on the ball. Like coach said, we can’t leave it on the refs. We had other opportunities. All that and being down by seven with a chance to score at the end just shows what we have coming up. Hats off to the seniors, I just can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for this program – for the ups and the downs. I’m just really proud of our effort. We’re not done yet.”
DL Sully Laiche
On the Coyotes offensive line…
“By far probably the biggest line, but they weren’t the most aggressive that we’ve seen. I think we got after them pretty good all night. The quarterback got rid of the ball pretty fast so we weren’t able to execute, but we pretty much got after them the whole night.”
On the success the Colonels had this season…
“It starts with the players. The attitudes around campus and in the locker room – just everybody being positive – it just brings positive vibes to the football team and to the community itself. How you’re acting in the community – just everybody coming in as a whole, it really is special.”
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