THIBODAUX – In the first home game of his collegiate career, quarterback Chase Fourcade showed he was big enough for the moment by leading Nicholls State to two touchdowns on the Colonels’ opening possessions of their Southland Conference encounter against the University of Incarnate Word.
That quick start ultimately led to the Colonels building a lead of 35-14 late in the fourth quarter.
After two quick scores by the Cardinals, Nicholls just couldn’t seem to put together than final drive to put the game away in a fourth quarter that seemed to last forever for the Colonels.
A late interception by Nicholls finally allowed the Colonels to run out the clock for a 35-28 victory.
Nicholls improved to 1-1 overall – and more importantly, 1-0 in the Southland. Fourcade finished the game 23 of 38 passing for 289 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Along with fine numbers, Fourcade showed poise and command of the Nicholls offense beyond his years.
As important as it was for Nicholls to get that first win at home in the Southland opener, it was the game a week earlier that opened the eyes as to what the Colonels may be in 2016 and well beyond.
Tiny Nicholls State played at the mighty Georgia Bulldogs of the Southeastern Conference in the season opener.
It was supposed to be a game where Nicholls came away with a big payday and a whopping loss by 40 or 50 points.
What chance did a tiny school like Nicholls have against a national power, especially with the Colonels featuring a true freshman at quarterback making his first collegiate start?
The prognosticators may have seemed right early in the game as Georgia scored less than three minutes into its opening drive and Fourcade’s first-ever collegiate pass attempt was intercepted as Georgia went on to build a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
“He made a couple of mistakes and he’ll remember that the rest of his life. His first college pass was an interception but it didn’t faze him. He came right back and that’s the sign of a mature quarterback that you like to see that is on to the next play,” Nicholls coach Tim Rebowe said.
Despite the early interception, Fourcade was confident.
“The first series, I knew we could hang with them because we were getting three or four yards a carry and we opened up the passing game on third-and-five. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game,” Fourcade said.
Along with being confident, he also relished the moment.
“I don’t think it gets better than that. There’s 92,000 fans – that’s everybody’s dream to play in front of big crowd like that. That’s been my dream my whole life and finally being in that atmosphere, it kind of gave chills to me on the field,” Fourcade said.
Fourcade and the rest of the Colonels did more than just settle down after falling behind by 14 points. The quarterback rebounded with a pair of touchdown passes and Nicholls even led the Bulldogs when Fourcade took the Colonels on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that used up 5:34 on the clock. The go-ahead score came on Fourcade’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Jarrell Rogers at the 6:48 mark of the third quarter.
In the end, the Colonels didn’t pull off the upset of “Appalachian beats Michigan” proportions, losing by a scant two points at 26-24.
What Fourcade did pull off was showing the major college folk that he was big enough for any moment.
With the high school career he had at Rummel, Fourcade might have been in a Georgia uniform last Saturday instead of his Colonel ensemble.
The major college recruiters, however, said that at 6-foot he was a few inches too short to play for the big boys.
The sabermetrics folks these days have devised a way to quantify everything in sports – except for measuring the desire and heart of an athlete.
The season opener gave Fourcade an early chance to show the naysayers what he’s truly made of.
“A lot of coaches measure your height and how much you weigh and stuff. People don’t look at how we work hard in the summer and in the fall. I think everybody over here at Nicholls has a chip on his shoulder about trying to be a great player and working hard every day. That’s what we strive to do,” Fourcade said.
“When he throws the ball and it is completed they don’t say his height. They don’t list his height when you do that and how he commands that huddle and when he walks in there, those guys (his Colonel teammates) respect him,” said Rebowe.
It there was any prep quarterback his that might get the benefit of the doubt in terms of a major college program giving him a chance, it would seem like Fourcade would have been as prime a candidate as any.
He certainly has the pedigree. His father, Keith, played football at Ole Miss. His uncle, John, was a quarterback at Ole Miss and played in several professional leagues, including the NFL.
“I thought I played well enough in high school to get the offers but they probably measure my height. I think I’m better than some of the college quarterbacks that are in college right now, but overall, I’m happy where I’m at,” Fourcade said.
Fourcade did receive some late offers from the likes of Louisiana-Monroe and Maryland.
“Going to Maryland came late and I went on a visit but they (the Nicholls coaching staff) stayed in touch with me and I was proud of that. That’s the reason why I came. Coach Lee (Roussel, a Colonel assistant) and Coach Rebowe all stuck with me through the end. That’s when I knew they really wanted me and they were just different from every other coach that recruited me. Maryland and (Louisiana-Monroe) came late but I knew who really wanted me. That was Nicholls and that’s why I stayed here,” said Fourcade.
It was a show of mutual loyalty for both Fourcade and Nicholls.
“We know he can play at any level and we are happy to have him for the next four years,” said Rebowe.
“I’m happy with Nicholls. I’m ready to change the program around, not just me, but the other freshmen and sophomores and some of the juniors and seniors. They are ready to change the program around now, not in a couple of years.”