#21/22 Lions take on #23 Nicholls for championship
HAMMOND, La. – The River Bell Classic between Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls has never seen more at stake than the 29th edition of the rivalry, scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. in Strawberry Stadium.
Southeastern (7-3, 6-2 Southland) and Nicholls (7-4, 6-2 Southland) are in a three-way tie atop the Southland Conference standings with Central Arkansas heading into the final week.
The winner of Thursday’s meeting will clinch at least a share of the Southland Conference championship and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA FCS playoffs. Regardless of the result of UCA’s game at UIW on Friday, both the Lions and Colonels have the tie-breaker over the Bears by virtue of each defeating them earlier this season.
The game will be televised on Cox Sports Television and on ESPN+ outside of the CST area. The contest can be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU-FM (90.9), Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM WFPR), online at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the Lions Game Day Experience and TuneIn Radio apps.
Thursday will also be Senior Day at Strawberry Stadium. The Lion senior class will be honored prior to Thursday’s contest.
The SLU-Nicholls game will also feature Military Appreciation Day. All military personnel will receive two free tickets with a valid ID.
Southeastern won its fourth straight game on Saturday, defeating Abilene Christian, 35-14, on the road. The win set up Thursday’s showdown for the Southland Conference championship and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA FCS Playoffs.
The Lion defense carried the day versus ACU, finishing with season highs of six interceptions and 10 interceptions. Southeastern did rack up 432 total yards on the way to building a 35-7 halftime lead.
Chason Virgil (2,560 yards, 17 TD, 9 INT) and Cole Kelley (725-9 TD-1 INT) share time under center for a Lion offense that ranks among the national leaders in scoring offense (37.6, 9th), passing offense (328.5, 3rd) and total offense (475.2 ypg, 5th).
CJ Turner (53 catches, 580 yards, 4 TD), Devonte Williams (47-419-2 TD), Bransen Schwebel (39-435-3 TD), Austin Mitchell (37-695-7 TD) and Javon Conner (37-371-4 TD) are the top pass catching options for the SLU quarterback duo. Williams also leads the team on the ground with 412 yards, while Kelley has a team-high eight rushing scores.
Opponents are averaging 23.7 points and 381.7 yards per game against SLU. Alexis Ramos leads the team with 65 tackles, followed by Xavier Lewis (51), Tre’ Spann (48), Donniel Ward-Magee (47) and Trae Drake (44).
Southeastern is second in FCS with 39 sacks and ranks third with 91 tackles for loss. Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund (15.0 TFL, 7.5 sacks), Josh Carr Jr. (13.5 TFL, 6.0 sacks) and Ronald Cherry III (10.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) are the leaders for SLU pass rush.
The Lions are also eighth nationally with 15 interceptions this season. Ferlando Jordan leads the way with five interceptions, followed by Lewis (3), Shawntrez Spates (3), Ward-Magee (2) and Spann (2).
Nicholls carries a three-game winning streak into Thursday’s River Bell Classic. The Colonels defeated McNeese, 34-20, in Thibodaux.
Reigning Southland Player of the Year Chase Fourcade leads a Nicholls offense that is averaging 411.7 yards and 29.6 points per game. Julien Gums (850 yards, 15 TD) and Fourcade (566, 11 TD) lead the Southland’s top rushing attack.
Fourcade (2,432 yards, 12 TD, 9 INT) has also been an effective passer with Dai’Jean Dixon (33-666-3 TD) the top receiver for the Colonels.
The Colonel defense is yielding 406.8 yards and 28.3 points per game. Kevin Moore (91) and Khristian Mims (81) lead the team in tackles, while Sully Laiche (18.5 TFL, 10.0 sacks) is one of the team’s top pass rushers.
Southeastern is 14-14 all-time versus the Colonels. The Lions will be looking to avenge last year’s 44-0 shutout loss at Nicholls.
Southeastern will learn its postseason fate on Sunday, when the 24-team NCAA FCS Playoffs field will be announced live on ESPNU.
For ticket information, please contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visit www.LionSports.net/tickets. The Lions’ remaining home schedule will see SLU welcome Southland Conference foe Nicholls (Nov. 21).