The Colonels are heading to the playoffs.
In a crowded room inside Ayo Hall, Nicholls State University’s football team watched anxiously Sunday to see if its season was good enough to earn an at-large bid to the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
As the FCS Selection Show unveiled the brackets on ESPNU, the players murmured as other teams with lesser records were listed. But 10 minutes into the show, Nicholls popped up on the screen leading a loud roar and lots of handshakes and hugs.
Nicholls (8-3 overall) will host South Dakota (7-4) of the Missouri Valley Conference in the first-ever FCS playoff game at Manning Field at John L. Guidry Stadium in Thibodaux. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. Saturday, and the game will be on ESPN3 and 100.3-FM.
After ending the regular season with a loss to in-state rival Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday, there was uncertainty surrounding a possible at-large bid for the Colonels. However, Nicholls coach Tim Rebowe was confident of his team’s body of work this season was good enough to get in and it was.
“We are very excited for that group in there and they wanted one more shot and they got it. We slipped up a little bit Thursday night and we left it in the hands of the committee,” Rebowe said. “We are so happy that (Central Arkansas athletic director) Brad Teague, who represented our conference, lobbied and fought for us to get in. We were just hoping to get in but now we get a chance to host one. To bring South Dakota here to Guidry Stadium, it should be a fun time on Saturday.”
Nicholls is making its fourth appearance in the FCS playoffs after also making trips in 1986, 1996 and 2005 and has a 1-3 all-time record in the postseason. During the 2005 playoffs, the Colonels lost 14-12 to Furman in an opening-round game.
After the entire bracket was revealed, FCS committee chairman Richard Johnson said on the show it was a difficult process to select the 24 teams and a graphic had both Nicholls and South Dakota as the last two teams in the field.
“It doesn’t matter we just wanted to get invited to the party. When you get your invitation in the mail, it doesn’t say what number you are. We feel like we belong in there and now we have to go and prove it,” Rebowe said. “School is out and we get to practice over Thanksgiving. It is fun and we are going to make it fun for them. It is a reward for us, and they know what the task is. We are undefeated at home this year. We have one more home game at Guidry Stadium and we are going for win No. 6.”
While the players will put on their game faces when practice resumes on Tuesday, there were plenty of smiling faces thankful for this opportunity.
“That was one of the best feelings to have. With all the hard work and the season that we had to see our name on that screen,” redshirt senior tight end Stephen LeBouef said. “We weren’t expecting a home game. We just wanted to get an invitation to the party. We are thankful that the committee saw how good we are and now we have to get to work. It is hard to believe that first game of the year (against McNeese State) was probably the most critical one. But, now it is time for some playoff football.”