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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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Colonels trounce rival Southeastern to earn Southland title

Colonels trounce rival Southeastern to earn Southland title

THIBODAUX, La. - For the second time in program history, the Nicholls State University football team is Southland Conference champions. The No. 15/18 Colonels continued their dominant play in every facet of the game and shut out rival Southeastern Louisiana, 44-0, Thursday night at Manning Field in John L. Guidry Stadium in the annual River Bell Classic.

With the win, Nicholls (8-3, 7-2) secured the Southland's automatic qualifier and head to the FCS playoffs for the second consecutive season. The Colonels earned the spot via the tiebreaker against Incarnate Word, which also earned a share of the regular season title with a 6-2 mark.

Nicholls defeated the Cardinals, 48-21, to start their four-game winning streak.

The win evened the series at 14-14 against Southeastern (4-7, 4-5 SLC) and was the largest margin of victory over the Lions. It was also the first Colonel shutout in league play since their 58-0 win over Northwestern State in 2007.

Nicholls racked up a season-high 358 yards on the ground, led by freshman Julien Gums' first career 100-yard game. The New Orleans native totaled 121 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Dontrell Taylor added 95 yards and a score while quarterback Chase Fourcade rushed for 71 yards and two touchdowns.

The defense pitched its first shutout since 2011, holding SLU to 299 total yards and forced three turnovers. Two were courtesy of senior Ahmani Martin, who had a pair of jarring hits in the game's opening minutes.

The Colonels have thrived on fast starts during the current streak and Thursday night was no different - but it was the defense that got things started. On the second play of the game, Martin delivered a crushing blow on a Julius Maracalin to force a fumble, and Darren Evans ran it back 51 yards to the SLU 14. On the Colonels' first offensive play, Taylor scored on a rush for the early lead.

Martin then forced another fumble on the second possession, with Ronald Ollie recovering it, but neither team could get anything going over the next few drives. But before the end of the quarter, Gums capped a 12-play, 52-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard touchdown run for a 13-0 lead.

Early in the second, Fourcade and sophomore Dai'Jean Dixon connected on a 30-yard catch before Fourcade scored his first rushing touchdown of the night, this one from 9 yards out.
Nicholls added a 23-yard field goal by Lorran Fonseca in the quarter and led 23-0 at the break. It marked the third consecutive game that the Colonels' have shutout their opponent in the opening half. Over the last four games, Nicholls has outscored the opposition, 112-7, before the intermission.

Things were the same in the third as the Colonels took the opening kickoff and pieced together a 10-play scoring drive for a 30-0 advantage. A 12-yard Taylor rush and an 18-yard catch by Dixon moved the ball down the field before Gabe Fuselier caught a strike from Fourcade for a 10-yard touchdown. Fourcade finished the night 11-of-18 passing for 128 yards.

In the fourth, Fourcade added a 1-yard touchdown and Gums rumbled off a 64-yard carry before scoring his second TD of the night.

Nicholls had an all-around effort on defense once again, with eight players recording 4 or 5 tackles. Ollie had the team's lone sack and totaled 2.0 tackles for loss. In the pass defense, Martin added two breakups and Khristian Mims picked up his first career interception.

Chason Virgil, who entered the matchup ranked third in the SLC in passing, was limited to 193 yards on 16 of 31. Tamarcus Russell led the Lion defense with a game-high 16 tackles.

The Southland title is the first for the program since 2005. Nicholls will be making back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in school history.

The Colonels will find out their next opponent Sunday, Nov. 18 during the FCS Playoff Selection Show, set to air at 11:30 a.m. central on ESPNU.

For the latest news on Colonel football, follow the team on Twitter @Nicholls_FB.

Photo by Misty Leigh McElroy