Few of us know much about this week's opponent, the Nicholls State Colonels. To help rectify this situation, Teddy Renois, who covers Nicholls State football for the Thibodaux Daily Comet, has graciously agreed to answer some question for us regarding the Colonels' football program:
ATQ: Nicholls has been among the worst teams in the FCS the past couple of years, going 2-20 with both wins coming against NAIA Evangel. Can you give us a quick summary of the reasons behind the Colonels' struggles?
TR: First, when Charlie Stubbs was hired he changed the offense from a Triple Option to a Multiple Pro, which meant changing personnel. No coach can totally overhaul a roster in one year, so it has taken time for him to find offensive linemen and skill players to fit the offense.
On defense, injuries have really hurt this unit. By playing several FBS teams over the past three years, the Colonels have dealt with countless injuries, lending itself to younger, untested players stepping in.
I can't put all the blame on injuries as there were changes to the defensive staff after last season in hopes of bringing new ideas to the scheme.
Special teams have had little to know impact the past two years and there is a change in coaching there and better talent in the kick and punt returners.
When a team goes 2-20 over two years, there is not just one aspect you can point to, and that is the case for the Colonels. Whether it was execution, turnovers or just dumb penalties Nicholls has done more damage to itself than its opponents. If that trend continues so will the losing.
ATQ: What is the offensive philosophy of this team? What style will we see on Saturday?
TR: The philosophy is to be a balance between the run and the pass. Stubbs cut his coaching teeth at BYU under LaVell Edwards, so his offense is BYU's Multiple Pro scheme. There will be a lot of motion and personnel groupings running in and out of the huddles. It has variations of the Spread, but he also runs some double tight ends formations to help in both the passing and the running game.
With the change in personnel and schemes over the past three years, the offense has been limited when it comes to big plays or gadget plays. I don't expect Nicholls to show much of its playbook in this game unless the unthinkable happens and it is close score going into the fourth quarter.
ATQ: What is the strength of Jeremy Atwell's defense?
TR: Well, that is a tough one. Last season, Nicholls was the worst defense in the Southland Conference giving up 455 yards a game and 38 points a game. Also the defense was ranked last in the conference in third-down defense and red-zone defense. If you are looking for strength, it would be with the safeties. Nicholls is employing a 3-3-5 Stack defense to get its three seniors safeties, Siegan Vergenal, Jordan Hanberry and T.J. Lumar all on the field at the same time. All of them can walk down on the line of scrimmage and are solid in pass defense. Another player to watch is senior noseguard Edet Udoh. Udoh is a fifth-year senior who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. At 6-feet, 2-inches and 330-pounds, Udoh can take up blockers, which was missing from last year's defense.
ATQ: What is the general feeling of people around the program about this game, especially because last season ended with a pounding in Oregon?
TR: The team is excited to start the season, but the fans are expecting Oregon will hand the Colonels another lop-sided loss. The coaches and players look at this game as an opportunity to prove the program is better than it showed against Oregon State. The team knows the chances of pulling off an upset are slim, but they also know it gives them a shot at some redemption. Like every college football team optimism flow freely at this time of year. Nicholls is optimistic that the addition of FBS transfers to its roster will help 2013 be better than the past two seasons.
ATQ: What would have to happen in this game for it to be considered a positive for Nicholls?
TR: I would say make Oregon punt at least four times have three or less turnovers and rushing for over 125 yards. If Nicholls can do that, then it would have won a few small battles on its way to losing the war. Oregon's talent and pace will eventually take over the game, but the difference in the score will be determined by Nicholls.
If the Colonels have a rash of turnovers, penalties and mental busts, then another 77-3 score as what happened at Oregon State last year is very possible.
However, if Nicholls makes Oregon earn its points and has any consistency on offense to give the defense time to rest, the final score might not be to embarrassing. If the Colonels can end every possession with a punt, then everyone with the program will feel good about the team no matter the final score.
ATQ: Many thanks to Teddy for his time. Be sure to check out his coverage fo the game.