THIBODAUX, La. – Freshman Rasheed Harrell scored a pair of second-quarter touchdowns while fellow freshman Xavier Roberson rushed for a team-high 89 yards and added an electrifying 88 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to lead Southeastern Louisiana to
a historic 35-16 victory over archrival Nicholls State in the annual River Bell Classic on Thursday at John L. Guidry Stadium.
Jeremy Meyers caught a pair of touchdowns for Southeastern (5-6, 5-2 Southland), including an acrobatic 19-yard touchdown strike from punter Beau Mothe as the Lions went deep into their bag of special teams tricks that saw Mothe extend a drive in the second
quarter with a 32-yard reception from Jordan Barnett.
Marice Sutton recorded a game-high 11 tackles for Southeastern, which finished with five conference wins for the first time since 1978 in the Division II Gulf South Conference. Southeastern, which recorded its first victory over Nicholls (1-9, 0-7 Southland)
in Thibodaux since 1980, used a goal-line stand on the Colonels’ opening possession and forced three turnovers as it finished one game in the league standings behind co-champions Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State.
“I’m excited about the direction we’re going,” Southeastern head coach Ron Roberts said. “I’m not going to say we’re where we want to be. When we’re playing and we’re the last one playing, that’s when we’ll say we’ve arrived. It gives me a lot of hope and
excitement for the future that we’re still very untapped.”
Southeastern stuffed Nicholls State’s Marcus Washington at the SLU 1 after the Colonels marched 82 yards in 17 plays that included three third-down conversions. The Lions responded with a 12-play, 99-yard drive that was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by
Harrell, but was extended by Southeastern’s special teams creativity.
After Gasten Gabriel recovered a Nathan Stanley fumble at the Nicholls 42 for an 18-yard loss, Southeastern sent out its punting unit with the attempt to pin the Colonels deep in their own territory. Instead, Mothe took a short snap, lateraled the ball to
backup quarterback Jordan Barnett and raced towards the left sideline where Barnett connected with the senior punter on a 32-yard reception to the Nicholls 10. Harrell, who was slated to redshirt the season before injuries forced him into action prior to the
Lions’ Oct. 6 game at UAB, scored two plays later to give Southeastern a 7-0 lead.
The Lions capitalized after Todd Washington returned a Landry Klann interception 11 yards to the Nicholls 39 as Harrell carried seven consecutive times that was finalized with a 4-yard touchdown that gave Southeastern a 14-0 lead with 6:35 remaining.
Southeastern, which led 14-3 at halftime, forced Nicholls State to punt on its opening drive of the second half before driving 64 yards in 13 plays for a score. An 11-yard pass from Stanley to Jeff Smiley on third-and-4 put the ball on the Nicholls 5 before
Stanley found Meyers in the right corner of the end zone three plays later for a 21-3 lead.
Nicholls, which will conclude its season Dec. 1 at Oregon State, forced a fumble that was recovered by Siegan Vergenel at the SLU 34 and the Colonels scored five plays later when Washington bulled his way in from the 3-yard line. Tyler Stoddard blocked Andrew
Dolan’s extra point, preserving a 21-9 lead.
But for the second week in a row, Roberson halted any momentum by the opposition as he returned a kickoff for a touchdown – an 88-yard score with 12:20 left that put Southeastern ahead, 28-9.
“We talked about that early on, that when people saw us play, hopefully they saw someone that was physically tough, mentally tough and a team that enjoyed playing and played with a lot of passion,” Roberts said. “I think we accomplished that.”
Klann, who finished 18-for-38 for 211 yards, tossed a 38-yard scoring pass to Andrew Wynn to get Nicholls State to within 28-16 with 8:31 remaining, but forcing Southeastern to punt on its next possession, Kaleb Muse forced Klann to fumble and John Graves
recovered at the Nicholls 25.
Three consecutive runs by Blaine LeBlanc moved the ball to the Nicholls 19 where the Lions lined up for a field goal. But Mothe took the snap, got up and fired a strike that was caught by Meyers in the back of the end zone for a 35-16 lead with 4:27 left.
The win was the second consecutive victory for Southeastern over its archrival, marking the first back-to-back wins by the Lions in the series since 1979 and 1980. The win also marked the first sweep for Southeastern over its in-state conference rivals (McNeese
State, Nicholls State and Northwestern State) in 24 seasons dating back to 1972.