It was the 12th play of the opening drive and Skylar Thompson took the snap from the Nicholls 9-yard line. 

He turned back to hand the ball to Kansas State running back Harry Trotter, who broke toward the right sideline. As soon as he turned the edge, linebacker Giovanni LaFrance slipped his blocker and dove for the tackle, but Trotter swatted away his hands. Safety Kevin Moore soon suffered a similar fate. 

Next to try his luck was linebacker Laryon James at about the 6-yard line, but Trotter was already at a full sprint by then and had him beat. Defensive backs Khristian Mims and Darren Evans tried to hit Trotter at the goal line, but it was too late. By the time he was knocked out of bounds, Trotter was across the goal line for the first touchdown of the day. 

If there was one major takeaway from the Nicholls season opener at Kansas State, in which the Colonels lost 49-14 to their FBS-level opponent, it was the need for the return to fundamentals. 

Costly and ill-timed penalties, miscommunication, blown coverages, and most of all, missed tackles. Nicholls saw a little of it all on the first Saturday of the 2019 season. 

But luckily the Colonels stepped off the plane from Kansas directly into the bye week, giving them time to work on many of the blips and miscues that defined the day before moving on to Prairie View A&M this upcoming weekend. 

“Last week we had three days of practice that were kind of getting back to the fundamentals. A lot of corrections from the previous week,” Colonels coach Tim Rebowe said. “I don’t think we tackled the ball well. And then protecting the football on the offensive side. We worked a lot of fundamentals.” 

If there was one area the Nicholls defense struggled most against the Wildcats — at least the most visible struggle — it was tackling. 

Some slipped tackles were due to bad angles caused by Kansas State’s Power 5 speed and size advantage. Others were a simple failure to wrap up. 

It didn’t help Nicholls that two starters were true freshmen making their first collegiate debuts with several more rookies rotating in throughout the day. Rebowe said he expects a big improvement from them at Prairie View A&M now that they have a game under their belts. 

In the first half alone a Nicholls defender got a hand on a ball carrier more than a dozen times without bringing him down. Eight came on three of the four touchdown plays alone. 

“We worked (on tackling) a lot in fall camp,” Rebowe said. “I think sometimes what happens is the speed of the game. You go to practice and sometimes you go against the scout team in that last week and you lose a little of the speed of the game. All of a sudden you get in that first game and it hits you. 

“Our guys know and coaches talk about it. You have to make those improvements every week and that’s what our guys are focused on doing.”

One of the brightest spots at Kansas State was Mike linebacker Allen Pittman. 

Pittman was a force in the middle of the field with a team-high 11 tackles, including nine without any help. It was a key showing out of the linebackers who are without Evan Veron to start the year due to injury. 

Pittman is one of the best tacklers on the roster the past four years. He led the Colonels as a freshman with 95 total tackles and then finished second as a sophomore with 78. He slipped a bit last year with 45, good enough for sixth. 

Nicholls also returned Mims this season after leading the Colonels with 76 tackles in 2018. He was close behind Pittman in Kansas with nine total tackles, including seven solo. Nicholls also had two tackles for loss from LaFrance and Aquindas Steib. 

“I’m going to play hard and whatever the stats say that’s what the stats say,” Pittman said. “I’m just focused on playing hard and being here for my team.”