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The Nicholls State University football team heads to Hammond for the annual River Bell Classic looking to claim an outright Southland Championship. The Colonels secured at least a share with their win over Lamar but seek the program’s first unblemished campaign since joining the SLC in 1991. Southeastern is riding a three-game winning streak with hopes of finishing with a winning mark in league play. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 16, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and can be listened to on ESPN Radio New Orleans 100.3 FM.
Nicholls took care of business in its regular season home finale with a 37-24 win against Lamar, locking up the Southland’s auto bid to the FCS playoffs. Similar to the previous game’s showdown against UIW, the Colonels relied heavily on their running game while the defense continued to find ways to create turnovers. Running backs Jaylon Spears and Collin Guggenheim rushed for over 100 yards for the second straight game, but this time it was Spears who did the scoring with two rushing TDs and one receiving. Although he threw for just over 100 yards, Pat McQuaidetossed a career-high three touchdown passes. Defensively, Nicholls had two turnovers and a goal line stand in the first half before Tyler Morton notched the unit’s nation-leading 16th interception in the third quarter.
After a slow start, Southeastern has found its stride heading into the River Bell Classic. The Lions were winless midway through October but after getting their first victory over Northwestern State, they went on to add two more wins by defeating McNeese and Texas A&M-Commerce. SLU features a two-quarterback system, Eli Sawyer and Zachary Clement to go along with a balanced rushing attack. SLU is averaging 42.3 points per game during their current streak while the defense has allowed just 19.3.
With its win last season in the River Bell Classic, Southeastern holds a narrow 17-16 advantage in the all-time series. However, Nicholls has an 8-7 record in Strawberry Stadium helped by winning two straight and three of the last four. The River Bell Classic has had several big moments over the last decade which includes the Lions’ securing the league title last year in Thibodaux. The last meeting in Hammond in 2021 saw Collin Guggenheim rush for a program Southland record 266 yards as Nicholls knocked off the Lions, 45-42. The 44-0 shutout by Nicholls in 2018 gave the Red and Gray their first of two consecutive titles, then the 2019 matchup was for not only for the Bell, but the winner received the Southland championship and the auto-bid to the playoffs. The Colonels won a thriller in Hammond, 28-27, and SLU joined them in the postseason with an at-large berth. In Coach Tim Rebowe‘s first River Bell Classic, the Colonels booted a field goal as time expired for a 27-24 victory.
A WIN OVER SOUTHEASTERN WOULD:
- Give Nicholls the Southland title outright. The Colonels are a game up on UIW which lost at home to Nicholls, 45-32.
- Secure the program’s first undefeated campaign in conference since joining the Southland in 1991. No team has went unbeatened in a full season since Central Arkansas in 2017 — a year where UCA and Nicholls did not play.
- Would match the longest winning streak in league play under Coach Tim Rebowe. Nicholls won six straight Southland games in 2017 en route to their first playoff appearance since 2005.
- Even up the all-time series at 17-17. The Colonels are 4-4 in the rivalry under Coach Rebowe.
- Improve the Colonels’ record to 20-7 in November under Coach Rebowe.
- Lock up the program’s sixth winning season in nine years under Rebowe.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 3 — Quarterback Pat McQuaide threw for a season low 106 yards in the win over Lamar but tossed a career high three touchdown passes. His first was on a slant to Jaylon Spears out of the backfield for 29 yards, then had a jump ball to Quincy Brown for a 3-yard score in the second quarter. In the third, he found David Robinson Jr. for a 15-yard touchdown. McQuaide has 11 touchdowns passes in his first season with the program.
- 16 — Nicholls picked off two more passes and has an FCS-best 16 interceptions in just nine games played. The defense got their first lineman pick when Perry Ganci batted a pass at the line and Rasheed Lovelace hauled in the deflection. Then in the third quarter, safety Tyler Morton recorded his league-best fourth interception.
- 24 — The Colonels continue to rack up turnovers, now with 24 on the season. The 16 interceptions is the best in the FCS and the defense/special teams has totaled eight fumble recoveries. The defense also has two touchdowns with Quinton Sharkey returning an interception at McNeese while Devonte’ Mathews picked up a fumble recovery for a score at UIW.
- 266 — In the last visit to Strawberry Stadium, running back Collin Guggenheim ended 2021 with an amazing five-game stretch of at least 100 yards rushing, and none was more impressive than his performance in the River Bell Classic. Guggenheim rushed for a school Southland record 266 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries in the Colonels’ 45-42 victory over Southeastern. Guggenheim’s total was not only the program’s most in a single game in SLC history, but it was the highest output vs. a Division I opponent and second most overall.
- 337 — Running back Jaylon Spears has rushed for 337 yards in his last two games, averaging an impressive 8.6 yards per carry. Spears registered his second 100-yard game in the win at UIW, rushing for 160 yards on 23 carries. In the home finale against Lamar, Spears recorded a new career high with 177 yards on just 16 carries. He also scored a personal best three touchdowns, rushing for scores of 69 and 14 yards, and caught a 29-yard TD pass.