HUNTSVILLE – Jared Johnson passed for 277 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 86 more to lead Sam Houston State to a 38-21 Southland Conference victory over Abilene Christian Saturday at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium.
The victory, combined with a 27-17 win by Stephen F. Austin over first place Southeastern Louisiana, puts the Bearkats right back in the 2014 Southland Conference title hunt. The Kats and the Jacks meet next Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Running back Keshawn Hill added 47 yards on the ground with touchdown runs of 4 and 1 yards. Johnson, who completed 26 of 34 passes, hit Gerald Thomas for a 34-yard scoring pass.
The Bearkat defense accounted for 14 points as Eric Agbaroji returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown and A. J. Davis picked up a fumble and ran into the end zone for a 27-yard tally.
Abilene Christian had not lost a fumble to an opponent in the first eight games this year. The Bearkats forced four Wildcat fumbles and recovered three.
Head coach K. C. Keeler praised the play of his sophomore quarterback following the contest.
"Jared made a huge jump today," Keeler said. "He made the throws he needed to make and he made those long throws that are going to separate us as the season goes along."
ACU quarterback Parker McKenzie completed 29 of 44 passes for 385 yards. He threw TD passes of 64 yards to Noah Cheshier and 14 to Jonathan Epps.
Sam Houston (4-4 Southland 3-1) and Abilene Christian (4-5 Southland 2-3) combined for 897 yards total offense in the contest with the Bearkats holding a slim 452-445 edge.
Davis led the Bearkat defense with seven tackles including one of Sam Houston’s five quarterback sacks.
Sam Houston opened the game driving 75 yards in 10 plays that ended with Hill scoring on a 4-yard run just 2:34 seconds into the game. A 25-yard pass from Johnson to LaDarius Brown to the ACU seven set up the touchdown.
Luc Swimberghe extended the Kats’ lead to 10-3 with 10:07 remaining in the second quarter with a 20-yard field goal.
Eric Agbarogi picked off a Wildcat pass on the sideline and returned the interception 28 yards to give Sam Houston a 17-0 lead with 10 to play before intermission.
Abilene Christian answered with a 7-play, 64-yard scoring drive with De’Andre Brown scoring from the five-yard line at the 6:21 mark.
A minute-a-half later, quarterback Parker McKenzie hit Noah Cheshier down the left sideline for a 64-yard scoring pass to cut the Bearkat margin to 17-14 with 4:08 left in the half.
Sam Houston countered with an 8-play, 86-yard drive as Hill scored from the one with 1:34 in the half as the Kats took a 24-14 margin into the locker room at halftime.
A quarterback sack by P. J. Hall at the ACU 24-yard line resulted in the Wildcats’ first lost fumble of the 2014 season. A. J. Davis picked up the loose ball and dashed 27 yards for a touchdown with 3:54 remaining in the third.
Johnson hit Gerald Thomas for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 4:38 remaining to complete a 61-yard drive. McKenzie took the Wildcats on 8-play, 74-yard scoring drive, hitting Jonathan Epps for a 14-yard score with 2:08 left in the game.
The 89th “Battle of the Piney Woods” next Saturday will kickoff at 3 p.m. at NRG Stadium in Houston.