SFA heads to Thibodaux for a Southland showdown at Nicholls

SFA heads to Thibodaux for a Southland showdown at Nicholls

SFA Athletics

NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)

Stephen F. Austin returns to Louisiana this week for a key Southland Conference showdown with Nicholls Saturday. The game against the Colonels kicks at 2:30 p.m. from John L. Guidry Stadium in Thibodaux, airing on the American Sports Network.

Stephen F. Austin will make its second appearance of the season on the American Sports Network when the Lumberjacks battle Nicholls Saturday at Guidry Stadium. Lyn Rollins (play-by-play) and Rene Nadeau (analyst) will have the call of the game with Tatum Everett on the sideline. The local affiliate for ASN is KTPN (The Z) out of Tyler-Longview, airing on Suddenlink channels 9 (SD) and 109 (HD) and over-the-air on channels 47.1 and 51.2. The game can also be found online at Southland.org/Live and through the Southland Conference app. Rob Meyers will have the audio call at Q107.7 FM, available online at Q1077.com as well as through the Lumberjack Sports Network on TuneIn. Live stats will be available at GeauxColonels.com with Twitter updates @SFA_Football.

When Stephen F. Austin visits Thibodaux, Louisiana, this weekend, it marks a homecoming of sorts for head coach Clint Conque who returns to his alma mater. Conque spent two seasons at Nicholls, earning first team All-America honors at linebacker in 1983 from the Associated Press. Conque was then selected to Nicholls' Silver Anniversary Team in 1997, followed by an induction into the schools' Hall of Fame in 2005. The trip to Guidry Stadium also marks a return to Thibodaux for QB Zach Conque who participated in the prestigious Manning Passing Academy this past summer, an event hosted annually by Nicholls. 

2016 Record: 1-3 overall, 1-1 Southland Conference. 
Last Three Games: L at McNeese (38-13), L at South Alabama (41-40, OT), W vs. Incarnate Word (35-28)
Head Coach: Tim Rebowe (LSU, 1987). Second season at Nicholls (4-11, .267)
Key Offensive Players:
• #9 Chase Fourcade (Fr., QB): 67-of-123 (54.5%) for 798 yds., 5 TDs, 4 INTs; 23 rushes for 39 yds. (1.7 avg.)
• #29 Dontrell Taylor (Fr., RB): 61 rushes for 243 yds. (4.0 avg.), 3 TDs 
• #24 C.J. Okpalobi (Sr., RB): 68 rushes for 236 yds. (3.5 avg.), 2 TDs
• #2 C.J. Bates (Sr., WR): 18 catches for 237 yds. (13.2 avg.), 1 TD
• #3 Damion Jeanpiere (So., WR): 10 catches for 150 yds. (15.0 avg.), 2 TDs 
Key Defensive Players:
• #26 B.T. Sanders (Sr., DB): 29 tackles (16 solo), 1 FF, 1 INT
• #58 Hezekiah White (R-So., LB): 27 tackles (16 solo), 5.5 TFL, 2 PBU
• #47 Allen Pittman (R-Fr., LB): 21 tackles (11 solo), 0.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 BK
• #55 Sully Laiche (Fr., DL): 18 tackles (12 solo), 4.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks
• #10 Jeff Hall (Sr., DB): 16 tackles (10 solo), 1.0 TFL, 2 INTs, 3 PBU, 1 BK
Synopsis: Nicholls has posted a 1-3 record on the year and is 1-1 in Southland Conference play, putting a scare into a pair of FBS foes. The Colonels dropped a 26-24 decision at Georgia in their season opener before a 41-40 overtime loss at South Alabama, and have split their Southland Conference games, defeating Incarnate Word 35-28 and losing at McNeese 38-13 last Saturday. Nicholls is averaging 28 points and 334 yards of offense per game, putting up 131.5 rushing and 202.5 passing yards per game. Freshman QB Chase Fourcade has taken over the helm of the Colonel offense as WR C.J. Bates has emerged as his top receiving threat, with RBs Dontrell Taylor and C.J. Okpalobi both rushing for over 200 yards already in 2016. Defensively, Nicholls is giving up 33.2 points and 396.8 yards per game, ranking as one of the top defensive units in the conference. The Colonels are allowing 132.5 rushing and 264.2 passing yards per game, led by senior DB B.T. Sanders' team-best 29 tackles. LB Hezekiah White has added 27 tackles and a team-best 5.5 tackles for loss while DL Sully Laiche has added 18 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.

Saturday marks the 33rd all-time meeting between Stephen F. Austin and Nicholls as the two teams have met yearly since 1984. Historically, the Lumberjacks have dominated the all-time series, holding a 25-7 lead in the series and have won eight-straight against the Colonels, including last season's 28-24 rally in Nacogdoches. SFA is 11-4 all-time at Guidry Stadium and have left Thibodaux with a victory in its last five trips, including the 42-20 win over Nicholls in 2014. Head coach Clint Conque has experienced success against his alma mater, posting an 8-2 record against Nicholls during his coaching career.

Second-ranked Sam Houston State raced out to a 28-0 lead after the opening quarter and never looked back, racing past Stephen F. Austin 63-28 in the 91st Battle of the Piney Woods at NRG Stadium in Houston. The bright spot of the day for the Lumberjacks was the play of freshman WR Tamrick Pace, who finished with 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown, setting new personal-bests. QB Hunter Taylor threw for 263 yards in his second collegiate start with QB Zach Conque throwing for 116 yards while leading the team with 43 rushing yards. Defensively, S Zack Starnes led the way with nine tackles, complemented by eight from LB Price Miller. It is the sixth-straight win for the Bearkats, tying the longest winning streak in the history of the series, as the 63 points scored by Sam Houston was the most of any team in the 91-year history of the rivalry. 

Freshman WR Tamrick Pace continues to be a bright spot offensively for the Lumberjacks in 2016, setting new career-bests against Sam Houston State with 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown. The 144 receiving yards is the most for an SFA receiver since Tyler Boyd's 229-yard performance against Lamar in 2013 as Pace registered a touchdown reception in his third-straight game. Through his first five collegiate games, Pace has caught 20 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns and has been involved in the HERO Sports FCS Play of the Week for each of the past two weeks.

Senior QB Zach Conque continues to move up the career charts at SFA, now ranking among the program's all-time top-10 in five statistical categories. Conque remains seventh in career passing yards at 5,478, sitting 20 yards shy of moving past Zeke Dixon (2001-05) for sixth all-time . Conque also ranks fourth all-time in career completions (501) and rushing touchdowns (27), fifth in career total offense (6,758) and eighth in touchdown passes (36). The only player in SFA history to both pass for 5,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards, Conque also moved into 19th all-time in career rushing yards against Sam Houston State, sitting at 1,280 for his career.

Senior QB Hunter Taylor has emerged as of late to help the Lumberjacks off to a fast start to the 2016 season. Taylor threw for 263 yards and a touchdown against Sam Houston State, marking the second start of his SFA career. The Whitehouse native was named the Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for a career-best 376 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Abilene Christian on September 24th and has set personal-bests with 744 passing yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. For his SFA career, Taylor has amassed 1,292 passing yards with 12 touchdowns, compared to just three interceptions.

A pair of Lumberjacks continue to inch closer to impressive career milestones, one through the air and one on the ground. Senior WR Justice Liggins had five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown against Sam Houston State and now has 81 catches for 896 yards and seven scores during his Lumberjack career. Sophomore RB Loren Easly rushed eight times for 33 yards and a touchdown against the Bearkats and now has 893 yards on 160 carries with six touchdowns. The duo look to join some elite company as just 28 Lumberjacks have eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards with 36 others surpassing 1,000 career receiving yards.

Senior DE Kedrick Harrison has been a mainstay among the Lumberjack defensive line for the past four seasons and he has now put his name among the program's elite. Harrison posted another tackle for loss against Sam Houston State Saturday, becoming the seventh player in program history to register 30 career tackles for loss. Four games into his senior season, Harrison remains seventh all-time in program history in TFLs while ranking tied for eighth in career sacks, registering his 100th career tackle against Abilene Christian on September 24th.

One area of emphasis for Stephen F. Austin heading into 2016 was in special teams, and it has been an area where significant progress has already been seen with three players ranking among the best in the nation. In the kicking game, redshirt freshman K Storm Ruiz has provided some peace of mind at the kicking position, making 7 of his 8 field goals, three of which have been from 40 yards or longer. Ruiz leads the conference in both field goals per game (1.40) and field goal percent (87.5%), ranking eighth and 13th nationally, respectively. On kick returns, sophomore Trevon Smith has returned 20 kicks for 475 yards, leading the nation in total kick return yards, averaging 23.8 yards per return with a long of 48. On punts, junior Trae Hart has provided a spark on the return game as well, returning eight punts for 156 yards, ranking sixth nationally in punt return average at 19.5.

Through the first month of the 2016 season, Stephen F. Austin finds itself among the national FCS leaders in a number of categories. As a team, the Lumberjacks rank third nationally in fumbles recovered (7), ninth in passing offense (311.2), 11th in punt return average (19.5) and 14th in sacks per game (3.00). Individually, Trevon Smith leads the nation in kick return yards (475) with Trae Hart ranking sixth in punt return average (19.5), Kedrick Harrison sitting seventh in sacks per game (1.00) and Elijah Ruiz ranking eighth in field goals per game (1.40). Ruiz is also 13th nationally in field goal percentage (87.5%) with Hunter Taylor ranking 14th in yards per completion (14.31), 19th in yards per attempt (8.45) and 21st in passing efficiency (156.4).

Despite the stumble in the 91st Battle of the Piney Woods, Stephen F. Austin is still receiving votes in both of this week's FCS polls. In the media poll, the Lumberjacks garnered 70 points, sitting 33rd unofficially, while SFA posted five points in the coaches poll, tied for 37th unofficially. Nicholls received five points in the media poll for the week of October 3rd, setting up a key Southland Conference showdown in Thibodaux.

Saturday's game against Nicholls in Thibodaux marks the sixth game for head coach Clint Conque against his home state since he took over the Stephen F. Austin program prior to the 2014 season. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Conque is 4-1 in games played in the Pelican State. In 2014, SFA defeated Nicholls 42-20 in Thibodaux before a 31-16 upset of sixth-ranked McNeese in Lake Charles. Last season, the 'Jacks recorded another upset, rallying to defeat 21st-ranked Southeastern Louisiana 28-27 in Hammond before dropping the season finale to Northwestern State 33-17 in Natchitoches. Earlier this season, Conque notched another win over a Louisiana school, defeating 13th-ranked McNeese 31-28 on September 17th.

Saturday's game at Nicholls marks the 12th time the Lumberjacks will suit up on October 8th as SFA has posted a 6-5 record on the date. Eight of those contests have occurred in Nacogdoches with just two true road games - at Lamar in 1955 (W, 20-8) and at Texas A&M-Kingsville in 1966 (W, 22-21). This will be the second time SFA and Nicholls have faced each other on October 8th with the Lumberjacks defeating the Colonels 27-24 in overtime at Homer Bryce Stadium in 2005.

Stephen F. Austin returns to Homer Bryce Stadium next Saturday when the Lumberjacks host Southeastern Louisiana on October 15th. The game against the Lions will kick at 3 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3.