With threatening weather from Hurricane Nate approaching, game officials eschewed media timeouts and sped the pace of Saturday’s Southland Conference game between Northwestern State and Nicholls.
It finished in just 2:29, ahead of stormy weather, but that was four minutes too long for the Demons. The Colonels scored the decisive touchdown with 3:54 remaining, handing Northwestern a bitter 14-10 defeat at Guidry Stadium.
The outcome spoiled a gritty effort by the Demons (1-4 overall, 1-2 in the Southland) against the Colonels (4-2, 3-1), particularly by a Northwestern defense that was ripped for 49 points and 580 yards a week earlier in a 49-20 home loss to Southeastern Louisiana.
Nicholls prevailed in part because of two defensive stops denying Northwestern on third-and-1 on consecutive series in the middle of the second half; a Demon defensive back falling down on slick turf, keying a 31-yard completion on the game-winning drive; and a freakishly precise bounce of the ball at the end of a punt that pinned the Demons a couple of inches shy of their goalline with 7:29 remaining and the visitors clinging to a 10-7 edge. Tyler St. Germain’s 49-yard punt bounded toward the pylon, slowed, and dipped out of bounds as close as it could without being a touchback.
The Demons couldn’t dig out of the hole. The Colonels started their game-winning drive at the Demons’ 40 and overcame a 7-yard loss on first down off a sack by Northwestern freshman Isaiah Longino. Nicholls’ normal starting quarterback, Chase Fourcade, who sat out the first three quarters with an undisclosed injury, took advantage of a slip and fall by a Demon cornerback to find Dai’Jean Dixon on third-and-17 for a 31-yard connection to the visitors’ 16.
Five plays later, Dontrel Taylor’s 3-yard touchdown run made the difference. The Demons got two more series, but went three-and-out for the third straight time and were intercepted on a deep fourth-down throw with just over a minute left.
“The punt rolls out of bounds inside the 1. Our defender loses his feet on the wet turf. Bad luck, but give Nicholls credit for making the most of it,” said Demons’ head coach Jay Thomas. “We had our chances but didn’t get it done.”
The Demons were just 2-of-9 on third downs after halftime, missing on the last six, and finished 5-of-16 overall.
Nicholls surprise starting quarterback Tuskani Figaro led a 90-yard scoring drive on the Colonels’ first possession.
After that, the hosts didn’t get a first down until after Northwestern tied the game 10:08 before halftime on a 4-yard run by true freshman Stadford Anderson, ending a seven-play, 39-yard drive.
An interception, his second of the season, by Ike Warren gave the Demons a short field they cashed in five minutes after halftime for a 10-7 lead. Eric Piccione’s 36-yard field goal put the visitors on top after a 28-yard march to the Colonels’ 17, mostly on a third-down 23-yard screen to Chris Jones.
Northwestern failed to convert a turnover soon after. Lyn Clark forced Figaro to fumble and Tremaine Whittley pounced on it at the Nicholls’ 46, but a potential 33-yard Almond to Jaylen Watson TD pass was tipped away at the goalline and the Demons stalled, choosing to punt over a 50-yard field goal try.
Following three fruitless drives into Colonels territory in the first two quarters, the Demons couldn’t breach midfield on their own after halftime. Northwestern posted only 202 total yards, its lowest total in 37 conference games dating back to late 2012.
Nicholls had a modest 326 total, 85 in the decisive fourth quarter behind Fourcade while the Demons managed only 22.
Senior linebacker Nick Pierotti had a game-high eight tackles and a ton of frustration afterward.
“It was a good game, but we didn’t do enough as a defense to get it done,” he said. “We played a solid 60 minutes of defense, but at the end, we’ve got to finish better.”
The Demons go on the road again next weekend, visiting nationally-ranked Sam Houston State in a 3:45 game at Bowers Stadium before the Oct. 21 homecoming contest at Turpin Stadium against Central Arkansas.