THIBODAUX — Quarterback Chase Fourcade had his best statistical game as a collegian, and Nicholls State defeated San Diego 49-30 in an FCS first-round playoff game Saturday.
It was the first playoff win since 1986 for the Colonels (9-3), who will play at No. 3-ranked Eastern Washington next Saturday in Cheney, Washington.
No. 13 Nicholls State, which lost at home last year to South Dakota, ended an eight-game winning streak by San Diego (9-3).
Fourcade combined for 419 total yards. He was 21-of-31 for 337 yards and two touchdowns passing and had 82 yards and two touchdowns rushing on 15 carries.
“I was just doing my job,” said Fourcade, a junior from Rummel High School in Metairie who is now 88 yards from becoming Nicholls State's career passing record of 7,670 yards. “I have some really good players around me, and we have a great offensive line.”
San Diego coach Dale Lindsey said he didn't know Fourcade was that good.
“We knew he was a good runner, but I'm impressed with his passing,” Lindsey said. “I didn't know he could pass like that. And, as a runner, he was hard to account for.”
The Colonels stormed to a 35-10 halftime lead, then fought off the Toreros after a three-touchdown, third-quarter blitz. Fourcade's only gaffe of the game — an interception with 1:57 left in the third quarter — enabled San Diego to come within 42-30.
However, Fourcade then led a 71-yard, 12-play drive that he capped with a 13-yard touchdown run with 8:53 left that all but sealed the outcome.
“I just got back to fundamentals,” said Fourcade, who kept the Toreros off-balance with his running. “On my runs, I just read the box, and they only had one or two guys there.”
The Colonels took control in the first half, leading by 25 points at halftime. Running back Dontrell Taylor set the tone for the half by scoring on runs of 27 and 49 yards on his first two carries on his way to 97 yards on six totes. And, quarterback Fourcade completed nine of 15 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown.
“We've been starting fast the last five games,” said receiver Damion Jeanpierre, Fourcade's teammate at Rummel and who caught seven passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. “We feel it helps our defense, with our energy carrying over to them.”
Nicholls State's defense played a huge part in the dominating first half. Taylor's second touchdown gave the Colonels a 14-7 lead at 7:17 of the first quarter. The Toreros looked poised to tie the score with another impressive drive led by Anthony Lawrence, who is second in the nation in passing and first in touchdown passes with 35.
Linebacker Evan Veron pulled the ball away from running back Terrence Smith and returned it 11 yards to the Nicholls State 49 at 5:53 of the first. It was the Colonels' second consecutive possession near midfield, and Fourcade capped a four-play drive with a 19-yard run and a 21-7 lead at 4:26.
The Toreros then went 65 yards to the Colonels 15 but had to settle for a 32-yard field goal. The Colonels answered with a 15-play, 74-yard march to a 1-yard dive by former Julien Gums, pushing the margin to 28-10 at 6:28 of the second quarter.
The Colonels then forced the game's first punt. Nicholls State then went 72 yards in three plays, with Fourcade and Tahj Smith combining on a 52-yard pass play and a 35-10 bulge at 4:35.
Nicholls scored on its first possession of the second half – a 17-yard pass from Fourcade to Jeanpierre at 9:59 of the third for a 42-10 advantage.