Last week, the Abilene Christian University football team came close to beating a top Football Championship Subdivision team before falling by three points at McNeese State University.
On Saturday, the Wildcats got that win over a top-ranked FCS team and it came at the expense of the No. 11 Nicholls State University Colonels.
The Wildcats grabbed an early lead and handed the Colonels a 28-12 loss at Wildcat Stadium in the first trip by a Nicholls football team to Abilene, Texas.
Playing in front of 10,973 fans on homecoming, ACU (3-4 overall, 2-3 in the SLC) scored a touchdown on the game’s opening drive and added two more scores on big plays in the first half.
Down 21-6, Nicholls scored its only touchdown right before halftime and was shut out the rest of the way.
With the loss, Nicholls slipped to 4-3 overall and to 3-2 in the Southland Conference. The win avenges a 29-20 setback in Thibodaux for the Wildcats in last season’s first-ever matchup between the teams.
Colonels quarterback Chase Fourcade threw for 261 yards and a touchdown, with Dai’Jean Dixon registering his second 100-yard game of the season with 110 yards on seven receptions. Dixon’s 21-yard catch with 1:10 before the half was the Colonels’ lone touchdown of the game.
ACU held Nicholls to 127 yards rushing after 32 yards were lost on five sacks. Nicholls running back Dontrell Taylor netted 86 yards on 14 carries, and Julien Gums added 45 on seven. The Colonels headed into the matchup averaging over 221 yards rushing per contest.
ACU quarterback Luke Anthony threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, while Billy McCrary rushed for 91 and a score.
Much like last season’s matchup, Nicholls was able to move the ball against ACU, but could not convert the drives into touchdowns.
After ACU scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by Anthony to start the game, Nicholls had to settle for two first-quarter Lorran Fonseca field goals from 35 and 25 yards.
Early in the second, the Wildcats found an opening in the Colonels secondary as Anthony hit Kalin Sadler for a 65-yard strike down the middle. Five minutes later, McCrary broke free for a 42-yard touchdown run for a 21-6 advantage.
Dixon’s touchdown trimmed the Wildcats lead to 21-12, but the Wildcats blocked the extra point.
In the second half, the Colonels were stopped on three fourth-down tries and missed a 47-yard field goal. The long field goal try came after the defense forced a turnover at midfield, courtesy of an Ahmani Martin sack/fumble in the third quarter. It was the only sack for the Colonels defense, which ranked ninth in the FCS with 3.5 per game entering the contest.
The teams traded punts until ACU put together an 11-play, 49-yard touchdown drive with 7:59 left in the game. The Wildcats converted a fourth down and Josh Fink capped the possession with a 16-yard reception from Anthony.
Down 28-12, Nicholls drove down to the ACU 24 for a 4th-and-1, but the run was stuffed up the middle with 5:47 left on the clock. The Colonels got the ball back with 4:18 to go and quickly marched down the field with three passes for first downs. But once again, the Wildcat defense kept Nicholls off the board as a pass on 4th-and-6 from the 8 fell incomplete.
With 2:25 to go, ACU picked up a first down and was able to run out the clock for the victory.
Corey Abraham led Nicholls with seven tackles, while Evan Veron added three tackles for loss.
Veron came into the game with a league-leading 13 TFLs.
Nicholls will have the upcoming weekend off before hosting Incarnate Word for homecoming on Oct. 27. Kickoff at John L. Guidry Stadium is scheduled for 3 p.m.