Nicholls’ late first-half push upends Demons

The Northwestern State football team went punch for punch with Nicholls for the first 27 minutes of Saturday’s Southland Conference matchup.

The final three minutes of the first half, however, swung the momentum firmly toward the homestanding Colonels as Nicholls pulled away for a 42-21 victory at Manning Field at John L. Guidry Stadium.

“The last few minutes of the first half and the first six, seven, eight minutes of the second half told the tale of the game,” fourth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “We weren’t able to get anything going, and they scored two (third-quarter) touchdowns to make it 42-14, and we couldn’t rebound.”

With the game tied at 14, Devonta Jason hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Lindsey Scott Jr. with 2:00 to play in the first half. Northwestern State (1-7, 1-4) went three-and-out offensively and got a field-flipping, 52-yard punt from Scotty Roblow, who averaged 49.5 yards per kick on six punts.

The Colonels (4-4, 3-2) overcame that punt, covering 66 yards in six plays as Scott hit Dai’Jean Dixon Jr. for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds to play in the half.

Those late first-half touchdowns stunted the momentum the Demons built in the first 27 minutes.

Making his first career road start, quarterback Zachary Clement accounted for three touchdowns – two in the second quarter.

Each of Clement’s second-quarter scores – a 3-yard rush and a beautifully thrown 67-yard touchdown pass on a wheel route to Jay Griffin IV – answered Nicholls’ first two scores.

Buoyed by the catch-and-run score up the far sideline, Griffin became the first Demon to post a 100-yard receiving game this year, finishing with five catches for a career-high 101 yards.

“I saw it was man coverage, and I knew I had to beat him with my speed,” Griffin said. “I trusted Zach would give me a great ball, and that’s what he did. I feel like Zach is getting more comfortable as the weeks go on. In practice, we’re connecting more on deep balls, which is good for us.”

Down 28-14 at halftime, the Demons were unable to gain much traction in the third quarter. In turn, Nicholls used a pair of Colin Guggenheim touchdown runs to build its largest lead of the game.

Part of Northwestern State’s struggles to move the ball came via penalties as the Demons were called for 11 violations for 93 yards. Nicholls, meanwhile, was whistled for two penalties.

The Demons saw back-to-back, first-down catches from Gavin Landry erased by holding penalties in the first quarter.

“The self-inflicted penalties, we can’t do that and be the best team we can be,” Griffin said.

The Demons won the turnover battle Saturday, intercepting Scott twice, including an end zone interception by Shemar Bartholomew on the game’s opening drive. It marked the second time in as many games against the Colonels that Bartholomew intercepted a pass in the end zone.

The Purple Swarm defense was able to keep the game tied at 7 after stiffening once the Colonels reached the Demon 3-yard line. From there, NSU pushed back and forced Nicholls to settle for a 20-yard field goal try by Gavin Lasseigne, which missed.

“You can look at all three phases and see things we did well,” Laird said.

That included Roblow, who has averaged 50.3 yards per punt across his past 10 punts in games against Southeastern and Nicholls. Included in his performance Saturday was a career-best, 66-yard punt, NSU’s first 60-yarder since Parker Pastorello’s 68-yard effort against Sam Houston on Oct. 23, 2018.

“I’ve been focusing on my craft in practice, working with (long snapper) Evan (Gibson) and (kicker) Eddie (Godina), just constantly getting snaps in,” Roblow said. “It feels amazing seeing the ball in the air, getting a good bounce. It helps the team more than it helps me, so if I keep doing that, we’ll be good from there.”

The Demons return home for their Nov. 6 home finale against Houston Baptist. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.

Photo: Sean McGraw/NSU Athletics

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