Nicholls defeats Northwestern State, 45-35, in conference play
The No. 12 Nicholls State University football team churned out a season-high 537 yards of offense and led by as much as 24 points before fending off a second-half comeback by rival Northwestern State in a 45-35 win Saturday evening on Manning Field at John L. Guidry Stadium.
The Colonels (4-2, 3-0 SLC) scored on the opening drive of the second half to take a commanding 31-7 lead before Northwestern State (0-6, 0-3 SLC) answered with two touchdowns to make it a 10-point game.
In the fourth, the squads traded touchdowns twice, but the visitors were unable to get any closer as Nicholls won its fourth straight in the series for the first time in team history.
For Nicholls, quarterback Chase Fourcade had another solid showing, but unlike last week, he did most of his damage on the ground. The senior eluded the Demon pass rush several times and finished with 14 carries for a career-high 135 yards — the first 100-yard game of his career. He rushed for two touchdowns, and senior running back Dontrell Taylor crossed the goal line three times — also a first for his career.
The Colonels totaled 349 yards rushing with a 7.3 yard-per-carry average and had two players eclipse the 100-yard mark. Kendall Bussey had 102 yards on eight carries with most of his yardage coming on a 65-yard rush in the third quarter. The duo gave Nicholls its first pair of 100-yard rushers since 2017 at Stephen F. Austin.
The defense sparked the fast start with two key plays to end the Demons’ first two possessions. On the third play of the game, Laryon James forced a fumble and Jarius Monroe recovered it. Fourcade then scored on a 13-yard scamper before Jordan Jackson stopped a fourth-down at the Colonel 26.
Taylor capped another scoring drive with a 1-yard plunge, and the Demons answered with their own 1-yard score by Jared West.
For the rest of the half, Fourcade found a seam up the middle for a 29-yard touchdown, and Gunnar Jones tacked on a 20-yard field goal before the break for a 24-7 advantage.
Jackson started the second half with a 62-yard kick return, setting up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Fourcade to running back Julien Gums. The touchdown pass was Fourcade’s 58th of his career — tying Doug Hudson’s program record.
For Gums, the sophomore totaled over 100 yards of offense with 62 on the ground and 49 yards receiving.
Searching for its first win, Northwestern State quickly answered with two touchdown passes by Shelton Eppler to make the score 31-21. Eppler had 387 yards passing and four touchdowns on 27 of 37 attempts.
In the fourth, Taylor found the end zone twice to put the game away. His first score came on a 27-yard dash up the middle, and he then added his third touchdown on a 3-yard rush.
Eppler connected with Quan Shorts for his second touchdown throw of the quarter, but with 32 seconds remaining, Nicholls ended the game with a recovery on an onside kick.
Fourcade finished with 188 yards passing on 19 of 28 attempts.
Tahj Smith led all receivers with a career-high 70 yards on four receptions. Fourcade spread the ball out to seven different players, with four having four receptions.
On defense, Sully Laiche had a team-high seven tackles and recorded a sack for the third straight game. Not only did it come at a crucial time in the game as it forced Northwestern State to punt trailing 38-28 in the fourth, but it also moved him into a tie for eighth on the Southland’s all-time sack list with 28.5 for his career.
Allen Pittman, Kevin Moore III and James all had six tackles each. Kevin Johnson broke up two passes in the secondary.
With the season-high in yards, the Colonels did not punt for the first time this season.
Central Catholic alum and Nicholls senior Stefano Guarisco had two catches for 15 yards with a long gain of 12 yards.
Central Catholic alum and Nicholls redshirt senior Garret LeBlanc also received playing time.
The Colonels hit the road next weekend to face Sam Houston State on Saturday. The Bearkats and Colonels entered this past week’s contests as the lone undefeated teams in the Southland before Sam Houston fell in triple overtime against Lamar. Next weekend’s kickoff in Huntsville is scheduled for 2 p.m., and the game will air on ESPN+.