THIBODAUX, La. — South Dakota’s defense forced a goal-line fumble in the final 27 seconds and recovered it in the end zone for a wild 38-31 finish in the school’s first-ever playoff game, defeating another first-timer in Nicholls State on Saturday.
South Dakota (8-4) will meet sixth-seeded Sam Houston Saturday in Huntsville, Texas.
Chris Streveler hit Brandt Van Roekel with a 10-yard TD pass, breaking a 31-31 tie with less than six minutes left.
Nicholls began its last-chance drive with 3:19 to play, needing to travel 55 yards to score. Chase Fourcade, on fourth-and-3 from the 4-yard line, rolled right on a keeper and was slammed to a stop at about the 1. The play was reviewed and the Colonels had a first-and-goal at the 1 by half the length of the football.
On the next play, Kyran Irvin powered through left tackle but in the swarm of defenders, one South Dakota player appeared to get a hand out to pop the ball loose, Phillip Powell slammed into Irvan, stopping him short of the end zone, and the Coyotes — again after review — recovered the ball and hung on for the win.
Streveler passed for 378 yards and four touchdowns, breaking the Missouri Valley Conference single-season record for total offense with 4,283 yards. The Coyotes forced four turnovers, also intercepting Fourcade three times.
Irvin carried the ball 20 times for 88 yards and a touchdown.