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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Colonels’ season ends in heartbreak 38-31 loss to South Dakota

Colonels’ season ends in heartbreak 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.