Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
THIBODAUX – Big plays characterized Saturday afternoon’s Southland Conference football game between Northwestern State and Nicholls at Guidry Stadium.
The homestanding No. 12 Colonels made a few more, building a big lead and holding off a renewed Demons second-half offense in a 45-35 Nicholls victory.
“Early on in the game, the first series, we fumble the football, they take it down and score,” second-year head coach Brad Laird said. “We’re behind the eight-ball right off the bat. We had an opportunity in the first half after we cut it to 14-7 and got the interception, but we couldn’t sustain the momentum.”
Nicholls quarterback Chase Fourcade played a key role in keeping the momentum with the Colonels (4-2, 3-0).
Fourcade tallied 135 of Nicholls’ 349 rushing yards and added two of the Colonels’ five rushing scores.
The first scoring run, a 13-yarder, came four plays after a Shelton Eppler fumble gave Nicholls possession at the Northwestern State 32. Fourcade added a 29-yarder on an option play that came two possessions after Jared West’s 1-yard touchdown run cut Nicholls’ 14-point lead in half.
Behind Fourcade’s big day, the Colonels rolled up 537 total yards, outgaining the Demons by 109 yards. Nicholls won the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 37:28.
“I put it all on Chase Fourcade,” said redshirt freshman safety Cedric Anderson, who collected his first career interception in the second quarter, sliding in to pick off Fourcade. “He’s deceptively fast and quicker than he looks.”
Fourcade’s 10-yard pass to Julien Gums with 11:27 to play in the third quarter pushed the Colonels’ lead to 31-7.
From there, the Demons (0-6, 0-3) awakened offensively.
Shelton Eppler capped a four-play, 69-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Quan Shorts to answer Gums’ score and, after the Demons forced a turnover on downs, Eppler hit Gavin Landry with a 6-yard score to pull Northwestern State within 31-21.
Those two scores were part of a three-drive stretch in which the Demons scored touchdowns, marking the second time this season NSU has scored on three consecutive possessions.
Eppler tied a season high with 387 passing yards and tossed a season-high four touchdown passes. Shorts hauled in two and finished with a game-high nine catches and 135 yards while fellow senior Akile Davis snared seven passes and finished with a career-high 155 yards and a touchdown.
“As soon as I came out here, I knew it was going to be a special day,” said Davis, whose 56-yard catch in the first quarter was the longest play from scrimmage for Northwestern State this season.
“(The good stretch) doesn’t surprise me at all. We know we can come out and score every drive we want to. It’s all about staying focused.”
Trailing 38-28, the Demons’ defense held, forcing a missed 35-yard field goal.
Much like the first half following Anderson’s interception, the Demons went three-and-out and again, and the Colonels answered. Dontrell Taylor’s third touchdown run of the game, a 3-yarder, with 2:31 to play, pushed the lead back to 17.
“This football team kept fighting,” Laird said. “We cut it to 38-28 with seven minutes left and had the opportunity to make it a one-score game, but we just couldn’t put together the plays when we needed to.
“These guys, we’ve got to keep working. We’re going to get a win. We have to understand every week we have a chance to go 1-0, and we’ll start that on Sunday.”
— Featured photo by Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services