THIBODAUX – A new Thanksgiving week tradition is developing at Nicholls.
For the first time in school history, the Colonels have made the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for consecutive year when it was announced Nicholls would host the University of San Diego at 3 p.m. Saturday at Guidry Stadium – two days after Thanksgiving Day.
“The last couple of years, we’ve played a lot of guys when they were young, when they were freshmen and sophomores. Now they are juniors and seniors so they have a lot of maturity about them. We thought we had a good team coming in this year. We played well toward the end when you are supposed to be playing good. Hats off to them that they got it done. We said it last year, once we got in the playoffs, we didn’t want it to be such a rare occurrence. Let’s make this every year will be practicing over Thanksgiving and the guys went out and did that,” said fourth-year Nicholls coach Tim Rebowe.
As the Colonels and fans gathered at Talbot Hall on the Nicholls campus to watch the 2018 FCS Division-I Football Selection Show late Sunday morning, the sense of anticipation was different from a year ago since the Colonels knew they were in as the automatic qualifier out of the Southland Conference.
“We were very excited, first of all, to see our name pop up on the top of the bracket, meaning we had a home game,” said Rebowe, a former Destrehan High head coach and Louisiana-Lafayette assistant. “That was really, really huge for us.
“There was a lot of excitement last year when you see our name pop up when you didn’t know if you were in. At least today we knew that we would be in. It was just a matter of where. You never want this to get old. You never want to lose the excitement. The guys are excited and it’s time for us to go to work.”
“Last year, we lost to Southeastern in the last game of the season and we were kind of biting our nails to get in. Last year, our reaction was more happy that we got in. Now, we were definitely and just waiting to see who we would play,” said junior quarterback Chase Fourcade.
Nicholls, at 8-3, made the field as an automatic qualifier after sharing the Southland title with Incarnate Word and beating the Cardinals 48-21 in head-to-head competition.
As with many playoff announcements on the FCS level, the Colonels know very little about the upcoming opponent.
“I don’t really know a whole lot about them. It’s hard to speculate. There are so many options. Our coaches will get on the horn and try to get some film exchange and get ready to start game planning a little bit,” said Rebowe.
As soon as it was revealed who Nicholls was playing, Fourcade used the modern-day method to learn a bit more about the San Diego Toreros.
“I looked them up on Google to see who they were and who they played. They put up a lot of points and they have a great conference. They are 9-2. Right when I found out, I looked up who they were,” said Fourcade.
The Toreros, out of the Pioneer League, qualified for the playoffs for the third year in a row. San Diego advanced past the first round in each of the past two seasons, defeating Cal Poly 35-21 in 2016 and Northern Arizona 41-10 last year.
Along with making the playoffs for the second year in a row, the Colonels will get to host in the first round for consecutive years.
“You have play so many games if you are to advance in this tournament. Our home field has been pretty special for us the last couple of years. We have to be careful. South Dakota came in here last year and beat us at the end of the year but we had been undefeated at home, so for us to play in front of our home crowd and in front of the community and in front of all of our students, it’s really big for us,” said Rebowe.
Nicholls is one of three teams from the Southland Conference to quality for the playoffs in 2018.
“We’re very, very proud to represent the conference. It’s really, really a good year. I was really excited to see Lamar and Incarnate Word get in. I think they did an outstanding job and had an outstanding season and I’m really happy for those guys, also,” Rebowe said.
Incarnate Word was one of three schools with six wins to make the field as an at-large team.
“I was voting all year on the Top 25 because I happen to be representing the conference. You kept following it and there is a lot of parity in college football, especially in the FCS level. Teams started beating each other. The same thing happened in our conference. It’s tough week in and week out, and I’m sure that it is that way across the country,” said Rebowe.
The winner of the Nicholls-San Diego game advances to play at Eastern Washington, the No. 3 seed, which received an opening-round bye.