Southeastern sees River Bell Trophy, Southland championship slip from its grasp

Southeastern sees River Bell Trophy, Southland championship slip from its grasp
Southeastern quarterback Cole Kelley fumbles the ball against Nicholls State in the River Bell Classic on Nov. 21, 2019. (Source: Josh Auzenne/WAFB-TV)

HAMMOND, La. (WAFB) - Southeastern dropped a heartbreaker to Nicholls State in the River Bell Classic in Hammond on Thursday.

The Lions ((7-4, 6-3 Southland) fell 28-27 to the Colonels (8-4, 7-2 Southland), which cost them the River Bell Trophy and at least a share of the Southland Conference championship.


On second-and-goal from the Nicholls 2-yard line and :21 left in the game, SLU quarterback Cole Kelley fumbled the ball on the 1-yard line and the Colonels recovered. Kevin Moore was credited with causing the fumble and Sully Laiche recovered. Officials reviewed the play to see if Kelley was down before losing the ball but the video evidence could not show where his knee was when the ball popped out. The call on the field of a fumble stood and Nicholls was able to run out the clock.

The Lions jumped out to a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter. Kelley connected with running back Devonte Williams for a 2-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 with 4:45 left in the quarter. Then, Williams found pay dirt again just as the quarter ended. He took a punt 61 yards to the house to put the Lions up 14-0.

The Colonels then stormed back by reaching the end zone twice themselves. Quarterback Chase Fourcade hooked up with wide receiver Dai’Jean Dixon for a 48-yard touchdown to make it 14-7 with 11:43 left in the second quarter. Later, another Fourcade to Dixon connection from two yards out tied it at 14-14 with 5:34 left in the half. On the play, Dixon went over the defender and came down in bounds at the back corner of the end zone.

The game remained tied until :20 left in the third quarter. Nicholls running back Julien Gums got into the end zone on a 5-yard run in which he went virtually untouched. The touchdown made it 21-14 and gave the Colonels their first lead of the game.

Fans in attendance were treated to a wild fourth quarter and a thrilling end. Southeastern tied the game at 21-21 on a 4-yard touchdown run by Williams that capped off a 10-play, 82-yard drive. The Lions then retook the lead on a 17-yard pass from Chason Virgil to wide receiver Austin Mitchell, a native of Plaquemine. However, kicker Bryce Broussard missed the point-after to make it 27-21 with 2:21 left in the game. Next, Dixon beat the coverage and scored on a 57-yard pass from Fourcade to make it 28-27 with 1:30 left.

Nicholls attempted a squib kick that was recovered by SLU at the 44-yard line. After a roughing the passer penalty and then a defensive pass interference call, the Lions ended up at the 2-yard line to set up the big fumble by Kelley.

Fourcade finished with 288 yards and three touchdowns. He threw one interception. Dixon had nine catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns. Gums ran for 133 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

Virgil threw for 321 yards and a touchdown. He also tossed a pick. Kelley was 3-of-6 for 26 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball eight times for 20 yards. Mitchell caught eight passes for 99 yards and one touchdown. Williams had 16 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown. He also had eight receptions for 63 yards and another touchdown.

Nicholls holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Central Arkansas (8-3, 6-2) for the FCS playoffs automatic bid. The Bears can still clinch a share of the Southland title with a win over Incarnate Word on Friday.

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