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The Nicholls State University football team essentially duplicated its performance from last weekend as the offense churned out over 300 yards rushing while the defense came away with three turnovers, leading the Colonels to a 37-24 victory over Lamar University to secure the Southland Conference’s auto bid into the FCS playoffs and the program’s third regular season title in six years.
Nicholls (5-4) remained unbeaten in league play while Lamar, which came to Thibodaux hoping to create a potential three-way tie atop the standings, slipped to 4-2 in the SLC. The Colonels will have the chance to claim the title outright next Thursday in the River Bell Classic at Southeastern as the Red and Gray seek their first undefeated SLC campaign since joining the league in 1991.
Redshirt sophomore Jaylon Spears notched a career-high in rushing yards for the second straight week, tallying 177 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries. After Lamar found the end zone in the game’s opening possession, Spears caught one of Pat McQuaide’s three touchdowns passes to even the score. McQuaide’s second TD pass went to Quincy Brown from three yards out early in the second quarter and Nicholls never trailed the rest of the way.
Reigning SLC Offensive Player of the Week Collin Guggenheim finished over 100 yards on the ground for the second straight game as well, toting the ball 18 times for 113 yards. McQuaide completed 9 of 17 passes for 106 yards, and his other touchdown went to David Robinson Jr.
After allowing a touchdown on the opening possession, the Colonel defense settled in shutout Lamar for the rest of the half. With the game tied at 7-7, the defensive lineman duo of Perry Ganci and Rasheed Lovelace teamed up for the unit’s first turnover. Ganci batted a pass into the air at the line of scrimmage and Lovelace corralled it for his first career interception. Nicholls turned that into Brown’s touchdown on a jump ball; however, Lamar blocked the extra point and returned it for two points to make the score 13-9.
LU special teams came up clutch again when Damashja Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 67 yards. But Joe Mason jarred the ball loose on a carry, allowing Jordan Jackson to recovery it for turnover No. 2. Four plays later, Spears dashed down the sideline for a 69-yard touchdown run and a 20-9 advantage.
A punt pinned the Colonels down at their own one, and the Cardinals took advantage of the field position with a safety. Royce Maloles took down McQuaide on a sack about a half yard into the end zone.
Down 20-11, Lamar carried that momentum into its final drive of the half and reached the Colonel red zone. Nicholls made two goal line stands on second and third down from inside the 2, then the Cardinals decided to go for it and Eli Ennis and Kershawn Fisher came off the edge to stuff RJ Carver at the line of scrimmage, causing a turnover on downs with nine seconds on the clock.
In the second half, Nicholls misfired on a long field goal and Lamar answered with a Kyndon Fuselier TD catch, putting the score at 20-18 Nicholls. But the Colonels wasted no time in responding as Lee Negrotto hauled in a a 40-yard catch and carry to the 50, then Spears broke free for a 35-yarder. McQuaide went to the corner and hit Robinson for a 15-yard TD catch .
The Colonel defense delivered again when Tyler Morton notched his four interception of the season on LU’s first play. Spears followed with a highlight 14-yard touchdown run for a 34-18 edge.
Lamar scored again early in the fourth but Ennis batted away a pass on a two-point try to secure a two-possession lead at 34-24. Nicholls added a short field goal by Gavin Lasseigne for the game’s final points.
Brandon Lairy led the defense with seven tackles while Morton turned in five stops, three pass breakups and an interception. Quinton Sharkey, who missed the first half due to a targeting call last game, added five tackles, including a sack in the fourth that gave Nicholls the ball on downs.
LU’s Robert Coleman carried the load for the visitors, throwing for 289 yards and two scores while rushing for 72 yards on 14 carries.
Nicholls will look to avenge last season’s loss in the River Bell Classic. Kickoff at Southeastern on Thursday, Nov. 16 is scheduled for 6 p.m.