BEARKATS FACE LSU IN OPENING GAME FOR EXPANDED TIGER STADIUM
Nationally-ranked LSU plays host to Sam Houston State Saturday in Baton Rouge, La., in the first game in newly expanded Tiger Stadium. The facility now features more than 100,000 seats.
The game marks the 30th time the Bearkats have faced an FBS opponent since the SHSU program moved up to the FCS level in 1986. The largest crowds ever to see a Sam Houston football team play were 88,913 at Texas in 2006 and 87,147 and 86,864 at Texas A&M in 2012 and 2013, respectively. This is the fifth time SHSU has faced a nationally ranked FBS foe.
Sam Houston has three FBS victories to its credit. The Bearkats defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 21-14 in 2000, Louisiana-Monroe 20-9 in 2001 and New Mexico 48-45 in overtime in 2011.
Each of Sam Houston’s 29 previous games against FBS opponents have been on the road.
SAM HOUSTON BRINGS NO. 3 FCS OFFENSE TO TIGER STADIUM
The Bearkats rank No. 3 in FCS total offense with 613.5 yards per game. The Bearkats stand No. 2 nationally in first downs (57), No. 7 in passing offense (356.5), No. 16 in rushing offense (257.0) and No. 17 in scoring offense (43.0).
TWO-TIME NATIONAL FINALISTS OWN THREE-YEAR PLAYOFF RUN
Sam Houston is one of only three teams to earn FCS post-season playoff berths each of the past three seasons (joining North Dakota State and New Hampshire). The Bearkats reached the Championship Game in Frisco with playoff runs in both 2011 and 2012. Last year, the Kats lost by one point to Southeastern Louisiana in the second round of the playoffs.
BEARKATS IN THE NATIONAL FCS RANKINGS
The Kats’ rankings of No. 13 in the NCAA Coaches Poll and No. 15 in The Sports Network standings mark the 40th consecutive poll for the Bearkats to be in the FCS Top 25. After a three-year drought, SHSU cracked the Top 25 again on Sept. 9, 2011 and have held a spot in the poll ever since, rising as high as No. 1 at the end of an 11-0 2011 regular season.
UNIVERSITY’S 15TH HEAD FOOTBALL COACH VICTOR IN HOME DEBUT
K. C. Keeler directed the Bearkats to a 51-20 victory over Alabama State Saturday in his home debut as Sam Houston’s 15th head football coach. The win extended the Kats’ winning streak at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium to 23, the longest current home streak in FCS.
In his 21st season as a head coach, Keeler’s record stands at 175 victories, 74 losses and one tie. Keeler’s teams have made 13 NCAA tournament appearances and eight trips to national championship games. His 2003 Delaware squad won the FCS national championship.
During his 11 seasons as head coach at Delaware, the Blue Hens reached the FCS National Championship Game in 2003, 2007 and 2010. His squads compiled an 86-52 record, winning league titles in 2003, 2004 and 2010 and compiling an 11-3 record in playoff competition.
As head coach at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, Keeler produced an 88-21-1 record from 1993 to 2001 that included seven NCAA Division III playoff appearances and five trips to the National Championship game.
BEARKATS IN THE PELICAN STATE
During its 98 previous football season, Sam Houston stands 28-57-3 in games in Louisiana. The Kats’ most recent victory in the Pelican State was a 52-17 win over Northwestern St. in 2012.
KEY FIGURES IN BEARKAT OFFENSE
Sophomore Jared Johnson earned the starting role as SHSU’s quarterback during preseason camp. Johnson was the back-up to All-Southland Conference Brian Bell last year. Bell finished his career as Sam Houston’s all-time passing and total offense leader in 2013. Johnson is averaging 351.5 yards per game passing with five TD passes.
Senior Keshawn Hill is a preseason All-Southland selection at running back. The back-up to All-America Timothy Flanders the past two seasons, Hill ranks second in the Southland Conference with 32 carries for 190 yards and two scores. His 79-yard TD run at Eastern Washington is his longest career rush. Hill has totaled 2,528 all-purpose yards during his career.
Transfers Jalen Overstreet from Texas and Donavan Williams from ASA College have bolstered the running game. Both rushed for 83 yards to lead the team in the Alabama State win. Overstreet carried 11 times including a 19-yard gain. Williams rushed 12 times, scoring one TD.
The Kats also feature a talented receiving corps. Redshirt freshman Yedidiah Louis has 13 catches for 104 yards. LaDarius Brown, a transfer from TCU, has nine catches for 110 yards.
Sam Houston’s tight ends can be factors in both the running and passing games with their size and mobility. Shane Young caught three passes at EWU including one for a touchdown. Donald Jackson III, Zachary Stevens and Brandon DeWitt all were starters in the offensive line last year. Young and Jackson both are preseason All-Southland selections. DeWitt was a freshman All-America selection in 2013.
THE BEARKAT DEFENSE
Only three starters return on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage. However 19 players who played in reserve roles plus several top newcomers have stepped in for the Bearkats.
Safety Michael Wade is a preseason All-Southland selection after an outstanding junior season. Wade is the team’s top returning tackler with 105 stops and two interceptions last year.
The other two returning starters are senior safety Desmond Fite and defensive tackle Sione Latu. Fite totaled 63 tackles in 2013. Latu posted 30 stops including five tackles for losses.
Gary Lorance, a 6-0, 285-pound defensive tackle who anchored the line for the 2011 and 2012 championship teams, returns after missing last season with an injury. He earned All-Southland honors as a sophomore and junior and is a 2014 preseason second team selection.
Mouf Adebo, a sophomore defensive end, earned freshman All-America mention last year. He led the Kats in tackles for losses with 11. Defensive lineman P. J. Hall has been hampered by a broken hand but is playing an important role up front.
Junior Tristan Eche and sophomore Myke Chatman lead the team in tackles as linebackers. Eche has 18 stops including three for losses. Chatman has 12 tackles. Both own a sack.
Transfer cornerback Trenier Orr from Cincinnati returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown in the Eastern Washington game and stands fourth on the squad in tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS CAN BE A BEARKAT STRENGTH THIS FALL
Australian punter Lachlan Edwards ranks second in the Southland Conference with a 42.9 punting average on 13 boots in two games. He has five punts of 50 or more yards. Seven of his punts have been fair caught.
All-Southland Conference kicker Luc Swimberghe kicked field goals of 30, 32 and 38 yards last week in the Alabama State victory. The sophomore was the team’s leading scorer with 97 points last year. Trent Williams returning as Sam Houston’s deep snaps specialist.
PLENTY OF NEW FACES ON THE 2014 BEARKAT FOOTBALL SQUAD
In Sam Houston’s season opener at Eastern Washington, there were 18 players in the starting lineup who did not start in the spring game. Only seven starters return from the 2013 team.
Sixty-one of the members of the 95-player roster in preseason camp were returning players from the 2013 playoff squad. That number included 44 returning lettermen, 12 red-shirt freshmen and five squadmen. Thirteen true freshman who signed in February also were present.
Twelve transfers from FBS programs have joined the team including LaDarius Brown (WR-TCU), Derrick Edwards (WR-Texas Tech), Kiante’ Griffin (LB-Baylor), Josh Hunt (LB-Wake
Forest), Jacobi Hunter (DT-California), Dwight Jackson (DE-Cincinnati), Jarrell Oliver (RB-Utah), Trenier Orr (CB-Cincinnati), Jalen Overstreet (RB-Texas), Trey Payne (CB-Miami Ohio), Ernest Payton (CB-Missouri) and Xavier Smith (CB-Missouri).
PENALTIES, TWO TURNOVERS DERAIL BEARKAT UPSET ATTEMPT
Leading twice, tied 21-21 at half and down by only seven with 5:14 remaining against No. 1 ranked Eastern Washington Saturday, the No. 14 rated Bearkats saw their upset hopes fade in the final minutes of a 56-35 loss on ESPN national television August 23 in Cheney, Washington.
The two teams combined for 91 points and 1,166 yards total offense. The Kats hurt their cause with 16 penalties for 159 yards and a pair of turnovers.
All-America quarterback Vernon Adams lived up to his billing as the favorite to win the 2014 Walter Payton Award. Adams passed for 302 yards and four touchdowns. The Eagles ended the day with 100 plays for 624 total yards.
There were many positives for the Bearkats. Sam Houston totaled 542 yards on 85 plays. Quarterback Jared Johnson showed promise in his second career start, accounting for 367 yards total offense. The sophomore completed 31 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 53-yard scoring run on an option play.
Senior running back Keshawn Hill was the leading rusher for the Bearkats with 17 carries for 133 yards including a 79-yard touchdown for the Kats’ first score. Wide receiver Yedidiah Louis caught 10 passes for 89 yards.
Defensively, cornerback Trenier Orr gave Sam Houston a 14-7 lead with a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown. Linebackers Tristan Eche and Myke Chatman and linemen Gary Lorance, P. J. Hall and Dwight Jackson combined to post four quarterback sacks.
BEARKATS WIN HOME OPENER 51-20 OVER ALABAMA STATE
Sophomore quarterback Jared Johnson passed for 386 yards and three TDs in a 51-20 win in SHSU’s home opener at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium Saturday night. The Bearkats went a perfect 6-for-6 in the red zone, ending those drives with four touchdowns and two field goals.
The Bearkats ramped up the offense with a school record 105 plays in the game. SHSU’s 685 yards total offense also set a school record. The Kats dominated time of possession, keeping the ball for 40 minutes and eight seconds.
Defensively, the Kats gave up only one touchdown in four red zone visits by the Hornets.
Texas transfer running back Jalen Overstreet and true freshman Donavan Williams led the rushing attack, each with 83 yards. Overstreet joined the team late in camp and saw limited action in the EWU game (catching one pass) but has quickly become part of the offense.
TCU transfer LaDarius Brown caught six passes for 65 yards and returning letterman Rickey Smith had six catches for 53 yards including a touchdown.
Running back Keshawn Hill rushed for a four-yard touchdown and caught a 68-yard scoring pass from Johnson. Hill totaled 57 yards on the ground and caught three passes for 168 yards.
Linebacker Myke Chatman led the defense with six tackles including one for loss.
RECORD PERFORMANCES BY OFFENSE IN WIN OVER THE HORNETS
Sam Houston set school records with 685 total offense yards and 105 plays Saturday in the win over Alabama State. The 685 yards eclipsed the old mark of 655 yards set against McNeese State in 2004. The Kats’ 105 plays Saturday broke the record of 102 set versus Southeastern Louisiana in 2008. SHSU’s 34 first downs Saturday tied the school mark first set against Texas State in a 2008 game at Bowers Stadium.
HEAD COACH SEES PLAYING CLEAN AS KEY TO BEARKAT SUCCESS IN 2014
Throughout 2014 preseason camp, head coach K. C. Keeler has spoken about the importance of the Bearkats playing without mistakes. Saturday’s loss at Eastern Washington showed how badly miscues and penalties can hurt the team’s chances of success.
Sam Houston was penalized 16 times for 154 yards at EWU and 10 times for 80 yards Saturday against Alabama State.
"We were disappointed in the mistakes at Eastern Washington," Keeler said. "If we play clean, we have a real chance to win the ball game. We still need to focus on eliminating mistakes."
During the past three years, Sam Houston State has compiled a 34-10 record and won two Southland Conference titles. With the graduation of several key players, only seven starters return from the 2013 squad that earned SHSU its third consecutive FCS playoff berth.
"We’ve thrown a lot of new things at the players," Keeler said. "But I’ve told the kids, if we play clean, we win. We have enough talent here that if we play clean, we’ll win a lot of football games. That’s going to be the challenge."
HEAD COACHES TAB KATS TO FINISH THIRD IN SOUTHLAND
Defending champion Southeastern Louisiana has been tabbed as the favorite to win the 2014 Southland Conference football title while McNeese State and Sam Houston are picked second and third, respectively, according to this year’s prediction poll of the league’s head coaches.
The Lions, Cowboys and Bearkats all earned NCAA Division I FCS playoff berths last year. Following the trio in the coaches’ poll are Central Arkansas and Northwestern State in fourth and fifth place and Stephen F. Austin and Lamar tied for sixth. Abilene Christian, Nicholls, Incarnate Word and Houston Baptist round out the field.
Sam Houston won back-to-back Southland titles in 2011 and 2012, advancing to the FCS Championship Game in Frisco both seasons.
SIX BEARKATS NAMED TO PRESEASON ALL-SOUTHLAND TEAM
Senior safety Michael Wade, junior offensive lineman Donald Jackson III and sophomore kicking specialist Luc Swimberghe were voted as first team selections on the 2014 Preseason All-Southland Conference squad.
Running back Keshawn Hill, defensive lineman Gary Lorance and tight end Shane Young (all seniors) were voted to the second team.
Jackson was a first team All-Southland honoree last year and has been voted to three pre-season All-America squads this summer. Wade is Sam Houston’s top returning tackler with 105 stops last year. Swimberge was the team’s leading scorer with 97 points in 2013.
Hill is a member of two SHSU 1,000-yard clubs with 1,396 career rushing yards and 2,312 all-purpose yards the past three years. Young earned honorable mention All-Southland tight end honors in 2013. He caught a crucial touchdown pass late in the 2012 playoff game at EWU to help Sam Houston preserve the win. Lorance is a two-time All-Southland defensive lineman who returns after missing last season with an injury suffered in the season opener.