Nicholls St. (1-9, 0-7) at #16 Oregon St. (8-3, 6-3) / Reser Stadium / 11:30 AM PST / Pac-12 Channel / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
Oregon St. closes out their regular season in a near-SEC manner, playing an FCS opponent that's having a tough time late in the season. But instead of coming immediately before their rivalry game, aka Alabama, Georgia, etc., its immediately after the Civil War. Of course, unlike in the SEC where its planned that way, the timing of this game is a product of the storm affects of Hurricane Isaac, which hit Louisianna, including Thibodaux, where Nicholls St. is located, particularly hard. And being a small school, the logistics of dealing with the storm weren't quite like what an FBS institution could martial, prompting the postponement of the teams season opener for 3 months.
The Colonels under coach Charlie Stubs have had a tough go of it, finishing winless in the Southland Conference for the second year in a row. In fact, Nicholls St. hasn't defeated an FCS opponent, never mind an FBS one, in the last 2 years, with only a pair of wins over local NAIA foe Evangel.
Here's what we thought when we first looked at the Colonels.
Nicholls St. had a pair of players named to the Southland All-Conference second team, as sophomore TE Nick Scelfo was selected for the second straight season, and was joined by middle linebacker Jordan Piper.
Junior Marcus Washington, who was the Colonels' leading returning rusher, received Southland Conference Honorable Mention, finished fourth in rushing in the SLC with 61.1 yards per game. On the year, Washington has carried the ball 107 times for 550 yards and scored six touchdowns, and also had 25 catches for 167 yards.
Stubbs made the move away from a triple option offense to add more passing to the offense, and Landry Klann completed 157 of 278 passes, for 1,885 yards, and 8 touchdowns, though he did throw 12 interceptions.
No one wants to insult an opponent, but this should be a turkey shoot of a scrimmage for Oregon St.
That said, after having their defense shredded for 570 yards, including 430 rushing, by Oregon last week, while giving up 2 fumbles on special teams, and 4 interceptions on offense, there's plenty that coach Mike Riley will want to work on before heading for a bowl game date against a Big XII opponent in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, or possibly the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
Much is often said about the extra 15 practices before a bowl game, especially for the less experienced players, and this year, Oregon St. even trumps that, with an extra week of practices in the regular season as well, plus a game where many reserves should be able to see some game action, in addition to the bowl game. With the majority of the team returning next year (there are only 16 seniors in the program), it could be a significant advantage Riley can leverage compared to the last couple of seasons.
An Oregon St. win against Nicholls St., or in their bowl game, will make this season a historic one, as an improvement of 6 in wins from one year to the next will be the largest such turnaround in school history (and there have certainly been plenty of opportunities to do so; certainly more than at, for example, USC or Alabama). The 5 win increase this year is already one of only 3 5 win improvements ever made, with the other 2 being in 1955, when Tommy Prothro took over from Kip Taylor, and improved the Beavers from 1-8 to 6-3, and Riley's 2006 10-4 run, after going 5-6 the season before.
The game will also be an opportunity for fans to give a final shout out to those seniors, 3 of which were just named to the Pac-12 All-Conference First Team this week. CB Jordan Poyer, WR Marcus Wheaton, and special teams star Jordan Jenkins are going to leave some large shoes to fill, and it will be great to see them take the field at Reser one last time.
As an added bonus, Nicholls St. football admission tickets will also be good for admission to the Womens' Basketball game at 4:30 against Sacramento St. across the street in Gill Coliseum.
It's the first of back to back trips to the valley for the Nicholls St. football team, as the Colonels will be back on Aug. 31 to play Oregon.
Buildingthedam will be at the game, and back afterwards with complete coverage and analysis of the Beavers as we begin to prepare for a post Christmas bowl game for the first time since the 2008 Sun Bowl.