Natchitoches, La. -- Quarterback Zach Adkins passed for four touchdowns, the last to De’Mard Llorens for a 20-yard score that proved to be the game-winner as Northwestern State defeated Sam Houston 31-27 at Turpin Stadium Saturday.
Adkins completed 22 of 35 passes for 296 yards. His other three TD throws went for 26, 42 and 26 yards, all in the first half.
The Demons defense clinched the victory with a pair of fumble recoveries in the final four minutes.
Running back Keshawn Hill accounted for all three Bearkat touchdowns with runs of 66, 74 and three yards. Hill ended the day with a career best 198 yards on 17 carries. The senior’s rushing total represented the 13th highest single-game performance by a Sam Houston running back.
Northwestern State upped its record to 4-3 for the year and 2-1 in Southland play. The Bearkats, who came into the game ranked No. 24 in The Sports Network FCS poll, drop to 3-4 for the season and 2-1 in the league.
Sam Houston’s running game dominated in the first half as the Bearkats rushed 25 times for 294 yards. But the Demons adjusted at intermission and limited SHSU to only 53 net yards in last 30 minutes. For the game, Bearkats completed eight of 22 passes for 85 yards.
Michael Wade, Trenier Orr and P. J. Hall helped stall the Demons’ passing attack with key interceptions.
Hill put the Bearkats on the board first, breaking for a 66-yard scoring run on the second play of Sam Houston’s second possession just five minutes into the contest.
A 12-yard Adkins to Ed Eagan touchdown completed a 10-play, 71-yard drive as Northwestern State tied the game 7-7 at the 5:42 mark.
A long punt return and a penalty gave the Demons an opportunity with a first down at the Bearkat 27. Michael Wade picked off a pass in the end zone to stop the threat.
Six plays later, Hill broke for a 74-yard touchdown with 2:41 left in the first quarter to complete a 94-yard drive as the Kats went back up 14-7.
Sam Houston opened the second quarter with another long drive. Hill’s three-yard score completed an 89-yard, 12-play march to put the Kats up 21-7 with 10:16 left in the period.
Northwestern State bounced back again, tying the score just before halftime on Adkins TD passes to Tuff McClain for 42 yards and Bryant Mitchell for 26 yards.
Both defenses stiffened during a scoreless first quarter as Sam Houston was limited to only 15 total yards. The Demons had one scoring opportunity but came away with their second field goal miss of the day.
Trenier Orr’s interception at the 50-yard line set up a 41-yard field goal by Luc Swimberghe to put the Kats up 24-21 with 11:30 to play.
Another interception, this time by P. J. Hall, set up a 21-yard drive for a second Swimberghe field goal. The 23-yard score gave SHSU a 27-21 lead with 8:02 remaining.
On a first down play seven yards deep into Demon territory, LaDarius Brown caught a pass but had the ball stripped by Tyler Roussel. Imoan Claiborne picked up the fumble and returned it 28 yards to the Bearkat 42. The play set up a 30-yard field goal by Chris Moore to give Northwestern State a 31-27 lead with 1:48 to play.
Leroy Armstrong forced another Bearkat fumble that was recovered from Chase Collins on the first play of the final Sam Houston drive to seal the victory for Northwestern State.
Sam Houston plays host to Abilene Christian Saturday at 3 p.m. at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium in their next game.