THIBODAUX, La.—South Dakota linebacker Phillip Powell forced a fumble at the goal line in the final seconds and the Coyotes recovered in the end zone for the decisive blow in a 38-31 win against Nicholls Saturday in a first round FCS playoff game played at Guidry Stadium.
The Coyotes (8-4), competing in the FCS playoffs for the first time, advance to the round of 16 where they will face another Southland opponent, sixth-seeded Sam Houston State (10-1), at 2 p.m. next Saturday in Huntsville, Texas.
South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler passed for 378 yards and four touchdowns, including a 10-yard strike to a wide open Brandt Van Roekel in the end zone with 5:57 left that proved to be the winning score. Van Roekel also wrestled away a 47-yard touchdown catch in the second half and finished with four catches and a game-high 82 yards.
Streveler broke Illinois State quarterback Tre Roberson’s Missouri Valley Football Conference record for total offense in a single season. In addition to his passing numbers, he ran for 34 yards and stands with 4,283 yards of offense this season, 33 yards more than Roberson compiled in 15 games back in 2014.
Van Roekel became the ninth Coyote in program history to reach 100 career catches. He also surpassed 1,500 yards. In addition to Van Roekel, Dakarai Allen scored on a 20-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter and Trystn Ducker had the offensive play of the game with his 75-yard catch and run late in the third quarter that put USD ahead 31-21.
On the other side was a Nicholls team that passed for 232 yards, ran for 232 yards, and outgained the Coyotes 464-452. But Colonel quarterback Chase Fourcade threw three interceptions and Kyran Irvin’s fumble on 1st-and-goal from the 1 with 30 seconds left were the difference. Fourcade completed 21 of 35 passes and ran 15 times for 77 yards. Irvin had a game-high 88 yards on 20 carries.
Irvin was ruled down by the officials on the field, but replays clearly showed the ball had come out and the replay official reversed the call. One play prior, Fourcade was given credit for a first down on a fourth down carry to the 1. Replays appeared to show Fourcade was short of the line to gain, but the ruling on the field was upheld.
The sequence capped an incredible back and forth between the two teams that was jump started by Austin Dickerson’s 43-yard interception return with 1:13 left before halftime that gave Nicholls its first points. Streveler responded to USD’s lone turnover by setting up Ryan Weese for a 39-yard field goal as the first half horn expired to put the Coyotes ahead 17-7 at the half.
Mike Johnson and Isaac Armstead each intercepted Fourcade in the first half, and Alex Coker got the Coyotes’ third pick on the first possession on the second half. But Nicholls wasn’t done. The Colonels marched to three straight touchdowns on drives that spanned 75 yards each. Lorran Fonseca’s 43-yard field goal on the next drive tied the game for the first time at 31-31 with 8:25 to go.
Each time the Colonel crowd of more than 9,000 tried to will their defense for a stop, Streveler and the Coyotes answered. The game-winning drive started with a Streveler 28-yard run – the longest for the Coyotes all game. Both teams exchanged pass interference penalties, but Nicholls came on 3rd-and-18 when Allen beat his defender who held on to prevent a big gain. Streveler hit Randy Baker for 15 yards to set up 1st-and-goal at the 10, and Van Roekel caught a crossing route in the back of the end zone for the score.
Streveler passed for four touchdowns for third time this season and recorded his seventh 300-yard game. Allen finished with six catches for 55 yards. Ducker had two catches for 76.