He would have liked a few more wins and a few less interceptions, but that speaks to youthful impatience and a mile-wide competitive streak. Truth be told, it’s hard to ask much more of Nicholls’ freshman quarterback Chase Fourcade and the rebuilding Colonels.
Just months removed from high school, Fourcade stepped in and helped lead Nicholls (5-5, 5-3 Southland) to its most wins in nine years. The Colonels can secure their first winning record since 2007 with a victory over rival Southeastern Louisiana (6-4, 6-2) in the season finale Thursday on ASN.
“I’ve had my ups and downs through the season,” Fourcade said. “But I think overall I’ve had some success. I’m just trying to find my way to help the team out, trying to be a leader on the field and help the team to a win.”
Fourcade embodies the progress made in two years under Tim Rebowe, a south Louisiana native and former Nicholls assistant. The Colonels have more conference wins than the previous 10 years, and Fourcade is just the sixth quarterback in program history with 2,000 yards passing in a season (2,227). If he hits his average of 222 yards per game, he will have the third-highest single-season total.
“We have to stop and think sometimes, as good as he’s been playing for us, he’s still a freshman,” Rebowe said. “He makes some freshman mistakes and he makes some throws that maybe he tries to force them in a little bit. But I like what he’s done with our offense.”
Fourcade completes nearly 57 percent of his passes, with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Last week’s 31-24 loss at 12th-ranked Central Arkansas demonstrated both his potential and his youth. He threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for another 66 yards against one of the nation’s best defenses. He threw what would have been the tying touchdown pass late, but the play was called back because of an offensive penalty. He also threw three interceptions, the last of which sealed the outcome.
“I knew he was a heck of a football player,” Central Arkansas coach Steve Campbell said. “He played really well. He can run and throw. He’s got a lot of moxie, a lot of savvy. … Very (heady), but I think you’re selling him short if you just think he’s a smart football player. The young man can really throw the football and can really run. Just an outstanding football player all the way around.”
Fourcade, a Metairie, La., native, had an outstanding prep career at Louisiana power Archbishop Rummel, where his teams went 46-6 with two state titles. At 6-0 and 190 pounds, he doesn’t have prototypical size, but possesses a good arm, an exceptionally quick release, quick feet and a relentless work ethic.
Rummel coach Jay Roth said it wasn’t uncommon to see Fourcade still on the practice field a couple of hours after practice ended. Nicholls offensive coordinator Rob Christophel mentioned Fourcade’s devotion to film study and preparation, as well as his ability to quickly move on from negative plays.
“He’s very good at making a decision,” Christophel said. “Whether it’s wrong or right, when he makes a decision, he reacts to it. I really like that about him. Sometimes it’s going to be wrong, and I understand that. I’ve coached his position long enough to know that you’re going to make mistakes. But I’d rather have a guy who makes a decision and if he’s wrong, we can teach and learn from it, than a guy who won’t make a decision and stands there and holds the football and costs your team yards.”
Fourcade has a pretty good football bloodline and in-house coaching, as well. His father, Keith, and uncle, John, both played at Ole Miss and for the New Orleans Saints. Keith was a linebacker and John was a quarterback who broke Archie Manning’s career passing record at Ole Miss.
“My dad and uncle helped me out a lot,” he said. “Just the mental game, the knowledge of football. My dad always tries to correct my footwork, which is something I work on in practice every day. My uncle gives me tips and pointers after games. They’ve always been there for me.”
Fourcade had scholarship offers from FBS schools Maryland, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Monroe, as well as a handful of FCS programs. He committed to Nicholls because of his relationship with the coaching staff, the lure of early playing time, and the attraction of contributing to a rebuilding effort.
Still, playing time came earlier and heavier than he imagined. Incumbent starter Tuskani Figaro suffered an injury in summer camp that lingered well into the season. The staff liked enough of what they saw from Fourcade to make him the starter, which is how a freshman lined up for his college debut against Georgia in front of 90,000 people at Sanford Stadium.
He threw a pair of touchdowns and a pair of interceptions in a game that the Bulldogs narrowly won 26-24.
“Playing at Georgia helped me out tremendously,” Fourcade said. “That’s SEC ball. Playing an SEC team helped me understand that I had to play football fast, and I think that helped me the rest of the season.”
Fourcade understands that there’s much work ahead, physically and mentally. Based on what they’ve seen, he and the coaches eagerly await what’s to come.
“Obviously, if he stays doing what he’s doing, he’ll be mentioned (as) one of the top quarterbacks in Nicholls history,” Rebowe said. “Chase is a humble young man, he’s such a team player. He’s so competitive. If he keeps that fire and that drive, like we all know he will, I think he’ll have a very good next couple years.”