K-State begins a new football era with a new opponent. The Wildcats will meet the Nicholls Colonels for the first time ever this Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan.
Nicholls is not unfamiliar with opening games in the Sunflower State. The Colonels knocked off our friends over in Lawrence in last year’s season opener, notching a 26-23 win in overtime.
For only the fourth time since 1989, a coach other than Bill Snyder will lead the Wildcats. Let’s take a look at the matchup with Nicholls.
Players to Watch
Passing: Skylar Thompson (2018), 122-208-4, 1,391 yards, 6.7 yards/attempt, 9 TDs, 126.5 yards/game
Rushing: James Gilbert (2018, Ball State), 152 carries, 659 yards, 4.3 yards/carry, 7 TDs, 59.9 yards/game
Receiving: Dalton Schoen (2018), 32 receptions, 520 yards, 16.3 yards/reception, 2 TDs, 47.3 yards/game
Passing: Chase Fourcade (2018), 214-352-8, 2,930 yards, 8.3 yards/attempt, 21 TDs, 225.4 yards/game
Rushing: Dontrell Taylor (2018), 137 carries, 990 yards, 7.2 yards/carry, 9 TDs, 82.5 yards/game
Receiving: Dai’Jean Dixon (2018), 53 receptions, 753 yards, 14.2 yards/reception, 7 TDs, 57.9 yards/game
Nicholls returns a lot of offensive production from a team that ranked 12th nationally in FCS last season. That includes quarterback Chase Fourcade and leading rusher Dontrell Taylor. Note also that Dai’Jean Dixon is 6’4” and 200 lbs. He may be a problem given that K-State’s starting cornerbacks run 5’11” and 5’9”.
Defensively, Nicholls brings back its leading tackler in defensive back Khristian Mims, who recorded 76 tackles and two interceptions last season. Linebacker Evan Veron also returns with 50 tackles, including 22.0 (!) tackles for loss. Defensive lineman Sully Laiche added another 17.0 tackles for loss last year and led the team with 8.5 sacks.
Interestingly, no Nicholls player tallied more than two interceptions last year. I don’t know if that says anything about their defensive scheme or more about their opponents, but they had only 10 total interceptions for the year.
As with South Dakota last year, Nicholls is not a team to take lightly. The Colonels recorded a win over an FBS team last year and, while it would be fun to point and laugh at KU over it, our game against the beaks last year showed we aren’t so far ahead of them as a program that we can take superiority for granted.
Furthermore, Nicholls is a veteran team that made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs before losing to eventual finalist Eastern Washington. They’re looking for more this year and would love nothing more than to start with a win over another FBS opponent. Bill Connelly’s SP+ projects a relatively easy 35-18 win over the Colonels. For a new coach against a quality FCS opponent, I would take that in a heartbeat.
Wildcats 31, Colonels 20