The University of Incarnate Word Cardinals from San Antonio will be the Bearkats' opponent when Sam Houston State's much anticipated 2012 football schedule begins Saturday, Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium.

The defending Southland Conference champion Bearkats return 50 lettermen including 19 starters from the 2011 team that went 14-1, ranked No. 1 in the nation going into the NCAA Division I playoffs and reached the National Championship game in Frisco.

Incarnate Word now competes as a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference. The Cardinals began playing football in 2009.

Larry Kennan, a 16-year veteran in the NFL in a career that includes a Super Bowl Ring from his days with the Los Angeles Rams, is the new head coach at Incarnate Word. His team looks to have genuine senior leadership with 21 fourth-year players returning including 12 senior starters. Six Cardinals who earned All-Lone Star Conference honors in 2011 return this fall.

While the loss to North Dakota State in the National Championship Game in Frisco last January ended a school record 16-game winning streak, the Bearkats still have a couple of streaks intact going into the Sept. 8 season opener.

Sam Houston has won its last 10 games on its home turf at Bowers Stadium, the second longest home streak in SHSU football history behind a 15-game winning streak from 1985 to 1988.

The Bearkats also have not lost a regular season game since falling to McNeese State in 2010. Sam Houston has won its last 13 regular season contests.

Five players who earned All-America honors last year return. Running back Tim Flanders was the Southland Conference "Player of the Year" in 2011. Wild-Kat back Richard Sincere was the league's "Offensive Player of the Year." Safety Darnell Taylor was the 2011 Southland "Defensive Player of the Year."

Defensive end J. T. Cleveland and defensive back Dax Swanson also received All-America recognition.

Other top players returning include quarterback Brian Bell, wide receiver Torrance Williams, defensive lineman Andrew Weaver and defensive backs Kenneth Jenkins, Robert Shaw.

Season tickets for Sam Houston State football now are on sale both online at and at the SHSU athletic ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House at Bowers Stadium.

Season ticket holders are guaranteed seats for home games at Bowers Stadium, the "Battle of the Piney Woods" at Reliant Stadium Oct. 6 and post-season playoff games at Bowers. Season ticket holders also have first priority on tickets for road games at Baylor and Texas A&M.

For more information, please call the Sam Houston athletic ticket office at (936) 294-1729. Ticket office hours are 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.