BEARKATS TIED FOR FIRST IN SOUTHLAND

With two games left in the regular season, the Kats stand tied for first place in the Southland Conference with defending league champion and preseason favorite Southeastern Louisiana. Both stand 5-1 in league action.

The Bearkats travel to Houston to meet Houston Baptist this Saturday, Nov. 15. SHSU ends the regular season with a home matchup with the UCA Bears on Saturday, Nov. 22.

SAM HOUSTON FOOTBALL IN HOUSTON, TEXAS

The Bearkats return to Houston for the second time this season Saturday. Two Saturdays ago SHSU defeated SFA 42-28 in the 89th “Battle of the Piney Woods” at NRG Stadium. The Kats own a five-game winning streak in the Bayou City. Overall, SHSU football is 10-26-2 in Houston dating back to their first game against the Rice University freshmen team there in 1920.

Sam Houston has played at Rice Field, Rice Stadium, Houston Public Schools Stadium, the Astrodome, Robertson Stadium, BBVA and NRG (Reliant) Stadium.

SECOND FOOTBALL MEETING WITH HOUSTON BAPTIST

Houston Baptist played its inaugural football game against Sam Houston at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium in Huntsville last year. The Bearkats won 74-0.

WINNING OUT EARNS BEARKATS NO WORSE THAN CO-CHAMPIONSHIP

Victories in both final two regular season games guarantees the Bearkats no worse than a co-championship. The title would be SHSU’s third in the past four seasons. In their  27 years in the league, the Bearkats have earned Southland titles in 1991, 2001, 2004, 2011 and 2012.

The Bearkats stand 5-1 in Southland play after going 1-3 in non-league action, a schedule that included road losses to No. 2 Eastern Washington and SEC power LSU.

KATS SEEKING FOR FOURTH CONSECUTIVE FCS PLAYOFF BERTH
By winning out, Sam Houston could put itself in position to become only the second team in Southland Conference history to earn four consecutive FCS playoff berths. The Cowboys made five consecutive post-season appearances in 1991 through 1995 and four from 2000 to 2003.

Sam Houston State reached the FCS National Championship Game in 2011 and 2012 and the second round last season. SHSU, North Dakota State and New Hampshire are the only three  FCS programs to participate in each of the last three post-season playoffs.

The Bearkats and the Cowboys hold the league’s top two FCS playoff records. Sam Houston stands 10-7 in post-season play while McNeese is 11-15.

TWO VICTORIES THIS SEASON OVER FCS TOP 25 OPPONENT

Sam Houston has wins over two FCS Top 25 teams, defeating McNeese when the Cowboys were No. 4 on Oct. 11 and No. 23 Stephen F. Austin Nov. 1 at the 89th “Battle of the Piney Woods” at NRG Stadium, the home of the NFL Houston Texans.

THE BEARKAT OFFENSE

Sam Houston ranks fifth in the Southland Conference with an average of 433.8 yards total offense per game. The Bearkats have scored 344 points for a mark of 34.4 points per game, seventh in the league. In their six Southland Conference contests, the Kats have averaged 445.7 total offense yards each game and have out-scored opponents 227 points to 131.

RUNNING BACK KESHAWN HILL SHSU’S OFFENSIVE SENIOR LEADER

For a senior running back who has started only 10 games in his four years, Keshawn Hill has amassed an amazing number of career marks in the Sam Houston football record book.

Hill ranks No. 2 in career touchdowns (34), No. 3 in rushing TDs (32), No. 5 in total points (228), No. 6 in career all-purpose yards (3,457) and No. 10 in rushing yards (2,153).

This season, the Klein product ranks No. 6 in FCS scoring (10.8 points) and No. 16 nationally in rushing touchdowns (16). He stands No. 5 this season in the Southland with 124.5 all-purpose yards per game and ranks as the league’s fourth leading rusher (75.7).

Hill posted a career best 198 yards rushing on 17 carries in the Northwestern State game. The total included touchdown runs of 74, 66 and 3 yards. The 198 yards  ranked as the 13th best single game performance by a Bearkat. In the victory over SFA, Hill rushed 14 times for 154 yards. He became only the fourth SHSU running back to score four TDs in a game.

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’ four Southland Conference game, only two seniors have started -- running

back Keshawn Hill on offense and safety Michael Wade on defense. In the four league games, four freshmen and eight sophomores have been among the starting 22.

Several transfers from FBS programs joined the team this fall including LaDarius Brown (WR-TCU), Derrick Edwards (WR-Texas Tech), 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).

SOPHOMORE QUARTERBACK JARED JOHNSON

Sophomore Jared Johnson is the starting quarterback for the Kats this fall after serving as a back-up in 2013 to All-Southland Conference quarterback Brian Bell (Sam Houston’s all-time passing and total offense leader).

The South Grand Prairie product ranks third in the Southland Conference in total offense with 2,638 yards (263.8 average). He stands as the league’s No. 5 passer (170 of 306 passes for 1,952 yards) and No. 6 in rushing with 127 carries for 686 yards.

Johnson was Southland and FCS national offensive “player of the week” after accounting for

382 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in a victory over No. 4 ranked McNeese State. He set an SHSU single game school record for most yards rushing by a QB (190). Included in the total were touchdown runs of 73 and 67 yards. Johnson also threw for 193 yards with touchdown passes of 22 and nine yards.

OTHER KEY FIGURES IN BEARKAT OFFENSE

LaDarius Brown, a transfer from TCU, has 25 catches for 349 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 and All-America selection. DeWitt was a freshman All-America selection in 2013.

TWO BEARKATS ON JERRY RICE WATCH LIST

Two Sam Houston redshirt freshmen - wide receiver Yedidiah Louis and defensive lineman  P. J. Hall - are included on the “watch list” for the Jerry Rice Award presented annually to the top FCS freshman by The Sports Network.

Louis leads the Bearkats with 45 catches for 547 yards. The New Orleans native stands as one of only 3 freshmen in the FCS national top 80 with 4.5 receptions per game. His longest gain this year has been a 48-yard catch-and-run at LSU.

Hall ranks No. 25 in FCS tackles for losses with 17 for 62 yards. The Seguin product has 56 total tackles including five sacks. He is one of only two freshman in top 50 in FCS tackles for loss this season.  His 17 TFLs rank as the 10th highest single season total in Bearkat history.

Hall intercepted a pass at Northwestern State and has two blocked kick to his credit. He is a two-time Southland “Defensive Player of the Week” winner. He earned the honor for his play in Sam Houston’s league victories at Lamar and over No. 4 ranked McNeese State.

THE BEARKAT DEFENSE

Senior safety Michael Wade and sophomore tackle Sione Latu are the only two starters this season who were in the starting line-up last year.

Wade, a preseason All-Southland selection, leads the Bearkats with 73 tackles (43 solo) and has two interceptions this season. His interceptions versus Alabama State and Northwestern State give him five career picks. He is two tackles away from moving into the top 10 in SHSU career annal with225 stops in four years. Latu has 23 stops including two sacks this fall.

Linebackers Tristan Eche and Myke Chatman have made 60 and 59 tackles, respectively.

Cornerback Trenier Orr, a transfer from Cincinnati, returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown in the Eastern Washington game. He also set up a score with an interception in the Incarnate Word victory. He has 51 tackles.

In his first collegiate start against Abilene Christian, freshman linebacker A. J. Davis led Sam Houston with 8 tackles. He returned a fumble 27 yards for a TD and had 2 tackles for losses. Davis has 40 tackles to his credit this year.Junior safety Eric Agbarogi returned an interception 28 yards for a score in the ACU win.

The Kats limited the No. 5 ranked McNeese Cowboys to 298 total yards. McNeese passed for only 89 yards and gained just 209 on the ground. Sam Houston allowed McNeese only one score through the first three quarters as the Bearkats built a 35-7 lead.

WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE

In Sam Houston’s six Southland Conference games, the Bearkat defense has created 14 turnovers (7 fumble recoveries, 7 interceptions) while the SHSU offense has given up 10.

The Bearkats intercepted three passes at Northwestern State. Sam Houston recovered three Abilene Christian fumbles. The Wildcats had not lost a fumble in its first eight games 2014.

AUSTRALIAN LACHLAN EDWARDS HAVING OUTSTANDING SEASON AS PUNTER

Junior Lachlan Edwards from Hastings, Victoria in Australia ranks No. 7 in FCS punting with a 44.3 average. He has 20 punts of more than 50 yards this season with a long of 59.  Results of his punts have included 22 fair catches and 25 inside the 20.

With a 43.6 average in his two seasons at SHSU, he stands No. 2 in all-time punting average, trailing only Ryan Klaus, a Bearkat Hall-of-Honor member with a 44.8 average in 1995-98.

Edwards set a school record with his 49.8 average on five punts at Northwestern State. The previous record of 49.5 yards by Kluas stood for 16 years. Edwards’  punts against the Demons covered 39, 49, 53, 51 and a then season best 57 yards.

SOPHOMORE KICKER LUC SWIMBERGHE

All-Southland Conference kicker Luc Swimberghe is one of only four kickers in FCS play still perfect in their field goal attempts this fall. Swimberge is 11-of-11.

Swimberghe has totaled 74 points on 41 of 43 PATs and 11 field goals.

The sophomore from Tyler earned Southland “Special Teams Player of the Week” honors after the McNeese victory. He kicked a season-best 44-yard field goal (the second longest of his career) and was 5-of-5 on PATs against the Cowboys.

Swimberghe is climbing in the SHSU career scoring standings. He now ranks No. 6 all-time  with 171 career kicking points and No. 3 in PATs (95)