K. C. Keeler calls his 2014 Bearkat football team “a work in progress.”

Sam Houston held its second game-condition scrimmage of preseason camp Saturday morning and Keeler liked a lot of what he saw, but still had reservations.

“It was a lot better than our first scrimmage,” Keeler said. “At the same time, we have a long way to go.”

The Kats open the season against Eastern Washington Saturday August 23 in Cheney, Wash. The Eagles are the No. 1 ranked team in The Sports Network national preseason poll announced Friday.

“If you look at Eastern Washington, they have a bunch of guys that have been in their offensive and defensive systems for three or four years,” Keeler said. “Our players have been in our system for a maximum of maybe seven months.  But we can’t let that be an excuse for us not to get where we need to be for the opener. We have a lot of work to do.”

Sam Houston returns five players on offense and two on defense that started more than 10 games during the Bearkats’ 9-5 season in 2013. SHSU is one of only three teams in the country that have earned FCS playoff berths each of the past three years.

Saturday’s scrimmage lasted approximately an hour and a half. The practice marked the second time the team had worked with officials present.

“The officials really help,” Keeler said. “Our first scrimmage revealed some things that need to get fixed that you don’t see in a normal practice. For the most part, we fixed those things.

“The kids competed. All in all, it was an improvement. But it also signifies we have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks to get ready for Eastern Washington.”

Throughout preseason camp, Keeler has emphasized one thing with both with coaching staff and players.

“We have to play clean,” Keeler said. “My theme is simple. We’re not going to lose games this year because of talent. We may not be as talented as every team we play this year, but we’re not going to be at a deficiency because of it.  So we have to play clean and not make mistakes. We play clean, our talent should match up with the people we play

“We’ve put that challenge to the players. It’s a new system. But when we play August 23, we have to be as clean as Eastern Washington if not cleaner if we’re going to have the opportunity to win.

Sam Houston will hold its final preseason scrimmage Thursday.

“All in all, there was definitely progress today,” Keeler said. “Now we need to make that next big jump. We’ll be looking polish things on Thursday and then it’s just 10 days until we play.”