UNIVERSITIES NAMED FOR TEXAS HEROES DUEL SATURDAY
Sam Houston State University from Huntsville and Lamar University from Beaumont, two members of the Texas State University System both named for Texas heroes, battle Saturday. Sam Houston was the first president of the Republic of Texas. He was succeeded in the office by Mirabeau Lamar. Both played major roles in Texas’ victory at the Battle of San Jacinto where General Houston led the Texas army and Lamar was a cavalry officer.
SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE OPENER
Saturday’s game in Beaumont marks the Southland Conference football opener for both Sam Houston and Lamar. The Bearkats stand 11-15-1 in conference openers in their 27 years in the Southland. Sam Houston is 5-7-1 in league openers on the road. The Kats have won each of their last five Southland Conference openers.
BEARKATS VERSUS CARDINALS ALL-TIME SERIES
Sam Houston and Lamar are meeting for the 36th time since the two started the series in 1935. The Kats hold a 25-9-1 advantage over the Cardinals. Saturday marks the 20th time the pair have met in Beaumont. SHSU is 12-7 versus the Cardinals on Lamar’s home field. Sam Houston has won all four meetings since the Cardinals brought football back in 2010.
BEARKATS IN THE NATIONAL FCS RANKINGS
Sam Houston stands first among teams also receiving votes in The Sports Network and the NCAA Coaches poll this week.
PLENTY OF NEW FACES ON THE 2014 BEARKAT FOOTBALL SQUAD
When Sam Houston opened the 2014 season August 23 at Eastern Washington, there were 18 players in the starting lineup who did not start in the spring game. Only seven players who started during the 9-5 campaign in 2013 returned this year.
In the Bearkats’ final non-conference game two weeks ago against Colorado State-Pueblo, running back Keshawn Hill on offense and safety Michael Wade on defense were the only seniors in the starting lineup.
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.
Several 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), Jarrell Oliver (RB-Utah), Trenier Orr (CB-Cincinnati), Jalen Overstreet (RB-Texas), Ernest Payton (CB-Missouri) and Xavier Smith (CB-Missouri).
KEY FIGURES IN BEARKAT OFFENSE
Sophomore Jared Johnson has been the starting quarterback for the Kats in their first four games. Johnson was the back-up to All-Southland Conference quarterback Brian Bell last year. Bell finished his career as Sam Houston’s all-time passing and total offense leader in 2013. Johnson is averaging 281.7 passing yards per game with five TD passes.
Johnson has completed 84 of 150 passes for 917 yards and five touchdowns. He has rushed for 107 yards on 39 carries including a 53-yard touchdown run in the season opener. Fellow sophomore Don King III has gone 8 for 12 for 98 yards and a score coming off the bench.
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 has carried 49 times for 248 yards and three scores. His 79-yard TD run at Eastern Washington is his longest career rush. Hill ranks No. 13 in SHSU career all-purpose yards (2,800) and No. 22 in career rushing (1,644 yards).
Transfer Donavan Williams from ASA College is Sam Houston’s second-leading rusher with 25 carries for 130 yards and a touchdown.
The Kats also feature a talented receiving corps. Redshirt freshman Yedidiah Louis has 21 catches for 229 yards including a 48-yard catch-and-run at LSU. LaDarius Brown, a transfer from TCU, has 13 catches for 173 yards.
Donald Jackson III, Zachary Stevens and Brandon DeWitt all were starters in the offensive line last year. Jackson both is a preseason All-Southland selection. 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. He leads the squad through four games this year with 30 stops.
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.
Linebacker Myke Chatman and cornerback Trenier Orr rank second and third in tackles. Chatman has 26 tackles including two for losses and a quarterback sack. Orr, a transfer from Cincinnati has made 24 stops and returned an intercpetion 55 yards for a touchdown in the Eastern Washington game. Junior linebacker Tristan Eche has totaled 23 stops. Defensive lineman P. J. Hall leads the team in tackles for losses with six.
SPECIAL TEAMS CAN BE A BEARKAT STRENGTH THIS FALL
Australian punter Lachlan Edwards ranks second in the Southland Conference with a 43.0 punting average on 32 kicks. He has five punts of 50 or more yards. All-Southland Conference kicker Luc Swimberghe kicked field goals of 30, 32 and 38 yards in the Alabama State victory. The sophomore was the team’s leading scorer with 97 points last year. Trent Williams returns as Sam Houston’s deep snaps specialist.
RECORD PERFORMANCES IN WIN OVER THE HORNETS
Sam Houston set school records with 685 total offense yards and 105 plays in the home opener August 30 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 broke the record of 102 set versus Southeastern Louisiana in 2008. SHSU’s 34 first downs tied the school mark first set against Texas State in 2008 game.
PLAYING CLEAN SEEN 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. Penalties, turnovers and mental mistakes have hurt the Bearkats in each of their losses this season.
Sam Houston was penalized 16 times for 154 yards at Eastern Washington. Still, the Kats were just a touchdown behind with less than five minutes to play. In SHSU’s next three contests, the Kats have drawn 22 penalties for 205 yards.
"We’ve told the kids since day one that, if we play clean, we can win," Keeler said. "We have enough talent here that if we play clean, we will win a lot of football games. We have a lot of new players, but they have to come together and play without mistakes."
BEARKATS AFTER OPEN DATESSince the 2011 season, Sam Houston is 4-0 after an open weekend. The Bearkats’ victory over Lamar last season in Huntsville came after an open date. Overall, in 27 seasons at the FCS level, Sam Houston is 14-13 after open weekends.
HOMECOMING VERSUS McNEESE STATE NEXT FOR SAM HOUSTON
Following the trip to Lamar this Saturday, the Bearkats will have another open date Oct. 4, then host the McNeese State Cowboys at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium for homecoming.
The McNeese contest will be one of three games telecast by the Southland Conference TV network. Other telecasts will be SHSU’s games at Northwestern State October 18 and the 89th "Battle of the Piney Woods" at NRG Stadium in Houston November 1.
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 head coaches preseason poll.
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.
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.
Lorance is a two-time All-Southland defensive lineman who returns after missing last season with an injury suffered in the season opener.