Rebowe leads Colonels back to postseason, school’s first-ever postseason home game
While others speculated the Nicholls Colonels might be on the outside looking in for the FCS playoffs, Tim Rebowe thought his team would hear its name called.
He turned out to be right, and not only are the Colonels in the postseason for the first time since 2005, but they will host a playoff game for the first time ever when it meets South Dakota Saturday at 3 p.m. at Manning Field at John L. Guidry Stadium.
The speculation – even within the Nicholls locker room – was that last Thursday’s 21-17 loss at Southeastern Louisiana put the Colonels on the wrong side of the proverbial bubble.
“After the disappointing loss on Thursday, I talked to the guys on Friday,” Rebowe said Tuesday. “A lot of them thought the season was over, and I told them it was not. They needed to be positive. I told them to get their mind right; they couldn’t wait until Sunday (to do so).”
Rebowe, whose team finished the regular season 8-3, had an even better feeling after several 7-3 teams in at-large contention lost on Saturday. Then, shortly after 10 a.m. on Sunday, the good news came.
“So many of the guys on the team have been through so much,” said Rebowe, whose seniors went 0-12 three years ago, the season before he returned to campus. “It was just a lot of excitement to see.
“The body of work – us winning eight games – was enough to get us in. The committee also thought so.”
Only the top eight teams in the FCS bracket are seeded, and two of Nicholls’ Southland Conference rivals, Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State, are among the top eight seeds. The other matchups are made geographically and not by seed, and as it turned out, the last two teams to get in, Nicholls and South Dakota, are matched up in the opening round.
“The object is to get in,” said Rebowe. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the first one or the last one (invited).”
Nicholls will face a South Dakota team that started 6-0 before losing four of its last five games in what is arguably the nation’s best FCS league, the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
Led by senior quarterback Chris Streveler, who has accounted for nearly 3,900 yards, the Coyotes rank second nationally in total offense, averaging nearly 520 yards per game.
“The thing that just jumps out at you is how explosive they are (offensively) and how stingy they are (defensively),” Rebowe said. “They have a lot of tradition there and they know how to win and how to get it done.
“Once they get rolling, they can put some points on the board. Up front, our guys are going to have to be gap-sound. We’re going to have to get lined up fast.”
The remarkable three-year turnaround Rebowe and his staff has pulled off earned Rebowe a finalist spot for the Eddie Robinson Award, emblematic of the FCS national coach of the year. Rebowe has an autographed picture of Robinson, the legendary former Grambling coach, in his office.
“I coached here earlier (as an assistant) and I always thought it was a special place,” Rebowe said. “They had been down, but the main thing we did over the first year was to change attitude and mindset. We talked about winning from the first day we got in there. The previous staff had done a pretty good job of recruiting, so the cupboard was not bare.”
Rebowe has continued to recruit – primarily in southeast Louisiana – where he and his staff have recruited the likes of sophomore quarterback Chase Fourcade, who has passed for 2,084 yards this season.
“It’s a unique place,” Rebowe said of the region. “New Orleans and Baton Rouge (are) a hotbed for talent. There’s a lot of people coming in here to recruit Louisiana; why do we need to go outside the area? The majority of guys, we find in our area.”
Sophomore running back Kyran Irvin, who leads the Colonels with 676 rushing yards but did not play against Southeastern, has been cleared and will play Saturday against USD.
The winner of the Nicholls-South Dakota game will travel to Sam Houston for a second-round game on Dec. 2. For the Colonels, it would be a rematch of a regular-season meeting in Huntsville, Texas.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…