It’s not often that you can consider a losing season successful, but last year was just that for the Nicholls State Colonels. Since the school fielded its first football team in 1972, only one head coach has ended his tenure with a winning record.
The school has reached the postseason just three times in its history and has only one playoff win. But there’s a decent chance that head coach Tim Rebowe could have the team in the postseason for the first time in over a decade in 2017.
2016 Nicholls State Football Season In Review
The Colonels went 5-6 last season, but they finished with a winning record in Southland Conference play for the first time since 2005. Their most impressive results, though, came against teams from the FBS.
Nicholls State started the season with Georgia and South Alabama as two of its first three games. The Bulldogs won 10 games the year prior, while the Jaguars were coming off of a bowl appearance.
Nick Chubb and UGA’s vaunted running game were held in check by Nicholls State just one week after running wild against North Carolina in the season opener. The Colonels held the Bulldogs to just 4.3 yards per carry, and that kept it close enough for Nicholls State to only lose by two points to the SEC foe.
Against South Alabama, it was the secondary that was the reason Nicholls State almost earned an FBS win. The defense picked off the Jaguars four times and was able to take the game to overtime before losing following Rebowe’s decision to go for two and the win.
Dual-threat Chase Fourcade performed how you would expect a freshman quarterback to in his first season. He showed a lot of promise, though, and it’s important he received virtually all of the repetitions in 2016. Fourcade finished the year with six interceptions over his last two games, so he needs to work out some kinks as he prepares for a new season.
CJ Bates and Damion Jeanpiere caught the majority of Fourcade’s passes in 2016. The pair combined to haul in 15 of his 18 touchdown passes and accounted for over half of the team’s total receiving yards.
The Southland is essentially the Big 12 at the FCS level and features some of the best offenses in the country. It’s no surprise that Nicholls State finished as a middle of the pack defense, but the school had a freshman phenom in Sully Laiche, who finished the season with 13 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.
2017 Nicholls State Football Season Preview
Fourcade should be better with a year of experience under his belt, so that gives the team a lot of hope. He may have thrown a lot of interceptions late in the year, but he also gained confidence in his mobility and his legs became a weapon.
He won’t have his favorite target to throw to this season, though. Bates graduated, but Jeanpiere returns and should lead the team in receiving. He showed no effects from an injury that ruined his 2015 campaign and will be a great option for Fourcade if he remains on the field.
The running game will likely improve after averaging under four yards per carry. The offensive line is more experienced and big-play threat Dontrell Taylor will be back in the lineup. He averaged 5.6 yards per rush last year, but his campaign was cut short because of an injury. Taylor has explosive speed and was another one of the team’s standout freshmen last year.
Nicholls State’s defense is led by Laiche and Allen Pittman, the team’s leading tackler from last fall. Pittman was a monster when the team almost pulled off an upset over conference rival Central Arkansas. He had 19 tackles in that game and finished the season with 35 more tackles than the second-leading tackler. These two plus Ronald Ollie will be pivotal if the defense wants to turn the corner.
2017 Nicholls State Football Schedule
August 31: Nicholls State vs. McNeese State
September 9: Nicholls State at Texas A&M
September 16: Nicholls State vs. Prairie View A&M
September 23: Nicholls State at Sam Houston State
September 30: Nicholls State at Lamar
October 7: Nicholls State vs. Northwestern State
October 14: Nicholls State vs. Abilene Christian
October 28: Nicholls State at Incarnate Word
November 4: Nicholls State vs. Houston Baptist
November 11: Nicholls State at Stephen F. Austin
November 18: Nicholls State at Southeastern Louisiana
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
The Colonels are still pretty young, and it may take a few games before they get up to speed this season. With that in mind, look to fade them early on in the season but back them late in your FCS Pick ‘Em Contests.
A road trip to Stephen F. Austin late in the season after three straight games against the worst teams in the conference might be a particularly good time to hop aboard the Colonels bandwagon.