REMATCH OF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
Sam Houston State, North Dakota State’s opponent in two of the Bisons’ three National Championship Game wins, travels to the Fargodome for a rematch Friday in the FCS playoff semifinals. The Bison defeated the Bearkats in Frisco 17-6 on January 7, 2012 and 39-13 on January 5, 2013. Both games attracted record sellout crowds of more than 21,000.
Key plays marked a turning point in both contests. Sam Houston led 6-3 at half in 2012. On a fourth-and-four punting situation at the NDSU 34, Matt Voigtlander tucked the ball and ran 27 yards to the SHSU 39. On the next play Brock Jensen hit D. J. McDonald for a touchdown only two minutes into the third quarter. The Bison never trailed again.
In the second meeting, a penalty turned the game. In the third quarter, a holding call erased a 37-yard Timothy Flanders touchdown run that would have given Sam Houston a 17-10 lead. The Bison went on to out-score the Kats 29-3 in the final two periods.
RETURN TO THE FARGODOME
The Bearkats are making their second appearance in the Fargodome. The first time Sam Houston visited, the Bison won 41-38 in a down-to-the-wire thriller.
NDSU quarterback Steve Walker connected with Kole Heckondorf for the winning TD with seven seconds left. The score came 19 seconds after the Bearkats went up 38-34 on a seven-yard scoring pass from Oklahoma transfer Rhett Bomar to Darnell Jones. The Bison drove 54 yards for the winning tally after a short Sam Houston kickoff.
Bomar finished the night 36-of-61 passing for 358 yards and four touchdowns. He added 103 yards on the ground. Sam Houston out-gained North Dakota State 496 to 414 in total offense.
BISON HOLD 3-1 ADVANTAGE OVER BEARKATS IN SERIES
Two years after Sam Houston’s visit to Fargo, the Bearkats picked up their only win in their four meetings with the Bison in another offensive show. Miguel Antonio kicked a 24-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining to provide the winning points.
Led by former Houston Cougar quarterback Blake Joseph, Sam Houston rolled up 620 yards of total offense. Joseph threw for 482 yards and two touchdowns.
BEARKATS IN FCS SEMIFINALS FOR THIRD TIME IN FOUR YEARS
With a 34-31 road victory over No. 5 Villanova Saturday, Sam Houston has advanced to the FCS semifinals for the third time in four years and the fourth time in program history.
The Kats are 2-1 in their three previous semifinal appearances. Sam Houston lost to Montana 34-13 in Missoula in 2004. SHSU defeated Montana 31-18 in Huntsville and Eastern Washington 45-42 in Cheney to advance to the national championship game in both 2011 and 2012.
SAM HOUSTON’S FCS PLAYOFF RECORD
Sam Houston, New Hampshire and North Dakota State stand as the only programs to earn berths in FCS post-season play each of the past four seasons. The Bearkats reached the NCAA National Championship game in Frisco in 2011 and 2012 (one of only eight universities to play in the finals in consecutive seasons) and reached the second round last year.
With this year’s FCS appearance, Sam Houston becomes only the second team in Southland Conference history to earn four consecutive playoff berths. McNeese made five consecutive post-season appearances in 1991 through 1995 and four from 2000 to 2003.
SAM HOUSTON RANKS AS SOUTHLAND’S WINNINGEST TEAM IN PLAYOFF ACTION
Sam Houston holds the Southland Conference’s top FCS playoff record with a 13-7 mark in postseason play. This year marks Sam Houston’s eighth playoff appearance after berths in 1986, 1991, 2001, 2004, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Five of Sam Houston’s 13 playoff wins have come on the road.
The Bearkats reached the National Championship Game in 2011 and 2012, the FCS semifinals in 2004, the quarterfinals in 2001, the second round in 2013 and lost in the opening round in 1986 and 1991.
BEARKATS KNOCK OFF ANOTHER TOP 10 TEAM IN QUARTERFINALS
Quarterback Jared Johnson passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns and the Bearkat defense held off a late Wildcat charge as No. 19 Sam Houston defeated No. 5 Villanova 34-31 to advance to the FCS semifinals. Johnson completed 22 of 27 passes including TD throws of two and 66 yards to LaDarius Brown and a four-yard score to Gerald Thomas.
The Wildcats looked on the verge of at least forcing overtime with a first down at the Sam Houston 26 with less than a minute to play. But a quarterback sack by Mouf Adebo, an incomplete pass and a delay of game penalty forced a 51-yard field goal attempt that was wide.
Brown caught six passes for Sam Houston for 174 yards. Yedidiah Louis led the Kats with seven receptions for 64 yards. Keshawn Hill paced a Bearkat rushing game that accounted for 151 yards as the senior carried 20 times for 75 yards. Jalen Overstreet accounted for the game winning one-yard TD with 4:03 to play.
Linebacker Tristan Eche led the Kat defense with 11 tackles (10 solos). P. J. Hall added nine stops including two for losses to run his season total TFLs to 29.
DEFENSE SHUTS OUT JSU IN 2ND HALF OF 2ND ROUND VICTORY
Sam Houston held No. 3 Jacksonville State scoreless in the second half as the Bearkats rallied to beat the Gamecocks 37-26 in the second round of the FCS Playoffs.
Quarterback Jared Johnson passed for 161 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 85 yards and another score. His 49-yard TD pass to LaDarius Brown in the third quarter proved to be the game-winner. Brown finished with 88 receiving yards and two scores on four catches. Keshawn Hill scored the Kats’ opening TD on a 10-yard throw from Johnson.
Running back Jalen Overstreet gave the Bearkats some breathing room with a 33-yard touchdown run to make the score 37-26. He finished with 83 yards on 10 carries.
The SHSU defense came up with two key interceptions. Linebacker Tristan Eche, who finished with six tackles and one sack, picked off a pass in the first quarter to set up a short touchdown drive. Cornerback Mikel Everette intercepted a pass in the end zone to end a JSU scoring threat late in the fourth quarter.
P. J. Hall finished the game with six total tackles and one tackle for loss. For the third consecutive game Hall blocked a kick. After the Gamecocks third touchdown Hall broke through the line and knocked down the extra-point attempt.
KATS WIN BATTLE OF SOUTHLAND CO-CHAMPIONS 21-17
Sam Houston defeated No. 9 Southeastern Louisiana 21-17 November 29 in the FCS opening round in a match-up that featured the Southland Conference’s 2014 co-champions. The Kats and the Lions posted identical 7-1 league records but did not play during the regular season. Saturday’s victory avenged a 30-29 defeat in the second round of the FCS playoffs last year at the hands of Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, La.
A muffed punt and a blocked field goal set up two Donavan Williams touchdowns as Sam Houston scored 14 fourth quarter points to come from behind twice to win. The Kat offense struggled against an outstanding Southeastern Louisiana defense. The Lions limited SHSU to a season low 13 first downs and 269 yards total offense (second low behind only the 206 given up by LSU). But outstanding defensive and special teams play kept the Kats in the contest.
The muffed punt recovered by Demartie Allen at the Lion four-yard line set up a one-yard scoring dive by Williams that gave SHSU its first lead, 14-10, with three seconds in the final period. The Lions retook the lead 17-14 with 11:11 remaining. A 42-yard field goal attempt blocked by P.J. Hall was the turning point, setting up a 65-yard, six play drive for a five-yard touchdown on an option play by Williams for what proved the game-winning touchdown.
FIVE VICTORIES THIS SEASON OVER FCS TOP 25 OPPONENTS
The Bearkats have five wins this season over FCS top 25 teams. Three have come in the playoffs over No. 3 Jacksonville State, No. 5 Villanova and No. 9 Southeastern Louisiana. The Bearkats also defeated McNeese when the Cowboys were No. 4 on Oct. 11 and No. 23 SFA Nov. 1 at the 89th “Battle of the Piney Woods” at NRG Stadium, the home of the NFL Houston Texans.
PLAYING CLEAN PAYS OFF
From day one of practice, head coach K. C. Keeler has preached to his team about “playing clean” (without mental miscues and penalties) as the key to success.
While going 1-3 in non-conference action, the Kats led the Southland with 38 penalties for 375 yards, an average of more than 9 flags per contest.
In Sam Houston’s last seven games (all victories), the Bearkats have been penalized only 27 times for 236 yards (only 3.75 flags per game).
THE BEARKAT OFFENSE
Sam Houston ranks 4th in the Southland and 24th nationally with 454.3 yards total offense per game. The Bearkats lead the Southland and are 6th nationally in rushing (250.7) and stand 3rd in the league and 17th nationally in scoring offense (36.0). Sam Houston has four backs with more than 600 yards rushing this season.
RUNNING BACK KESHAWN HILL SHSU’S OFFENSIVE SENIOR LEADER
For a senior running back who has started only 13 games in his four years, Keshawn Hill has amassed an amazing number of career marks in the Sam Houston football record book.
Hill’s SHSU career rankings include No. 2 in touchdowns (41), No. 3 in rushing TDs (34), No. 4 in all-time rushing (2,520) and scoring (246 points) and No. 5 in all-purpose yards (3,858).
Looking at Bearkat season records, this year Hill stands No. 2 in single season TDs (21) and No. 3 in points (126) and rushing touchdowns (18).
Twice this year, Hill has posted career bests. First, he gained 198 yards on 17 carries with TD runs of 74, 66 and 3 yards at Northwestern State. Then, in the regular season finale against Central Arkansas, he carried 32 times for 244 yards and a pair of scores (the seventh best single game performance in 99 years of Bearkat football).
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.
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 5th in the Southland Conference in total offense with 3,760 yards (250.7 average). He stands as the league’s No. 5 passer (240 of 422 passes for 2,827 yards, 21 TDs) and is SHSU’s second-leading rusher (62.2 yards per game, 6 TDs).
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
Texas transfer Jalen Overstreet has 105 rushes for 723 yards and 7 TDs. Overstreet is averaging 6.9 yards per carry. Donavan Williams from ASA College has 121 rushes for 671 yards and 9 TDs (including an 80-yard TD run). Williams accounted for two of SHSU’s three scores in the FCS opening round win over the Lions Saturday in Huntsville. He averages 5.1 yards per carry
LaDarius Brown, a transfer from TCU, has 43 catches for 780 yards and 7 TDs. Four of those scoring catches have come in the playoffs with a pair each in the wins at Jacksonville State and Villanova.
Yedidiah Louis, a walk-on, leads the offense with 65 catches for 741 yards. The New Orleans native is one of only three freshmen in the FCS national top 80 with 4.4 receptions per game.
FRESHMAN P. J. HALL JERRY RICE AWARD FINALIST
Defensive lineman P. J. Hall is a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award presented annually to the top FCS freshman by The Sports Network. The Southland Conference’s “Freshman of the Year,” Hall is one of the leaders in FCS tackles for losses with 29 for 114 yards. The Seguin product has 86 total tackles including 11 sacks. His 29 TFLs rank as SHSU’s 2nd highest single season total.
With a blocked PAT attempt at JSU, Hall has tied the school record for most kick blocks in a season with five. His field goal block in the fourth quarter of the opening round game vs. Southeastern Louisiana was the game-changer for the Kats in a come-from-behind win.
Hall intercepted a pass at Northwestern State. He is a three-time Southland “Defensive Player of the Week” winner and has won national weekly honors twice.
THE BEARKAT DEFENSE
Safety Michael Wade is the only senior starting on defense for the Bearkats. He leads the Bearkats with 115 tackles. He has two interceptions this season and five in his career. He ranks 8th in SHSU career annals. Wade led the Kats with 13 tackles in the victory over SLU.
Linebackers Tristan Eche and Myke Chatman have made 95 and 83 tackles, respectively. Eche set up a Bearkat first half TD with a pass interception at Jacksonville State.
Cornerback Trenier Orr, a transfer from Cincinnati, ranks No. 4 in the Southland with 4 interceptions this year. He returned his first pick 55 yards for a touchdown in the Eastern Washington game.
Freshman linebacker A. J. Davis has 67 stops this year. In his first collegiate start against Abilene Christian he returned a fumble 27 yards for a TD.
PUNTERS PROVING STRONG SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY
Junior Lachlan Edwards from Hastings, Victoria in Australia ranks No. 6 in FCS and leads the Southland in punting with a 44.1 average. He has 25 punts of more than 50 yards this season with a long of 59.
Edwards was lost to an injury late in the game against Southeastern Louisiana, but his backup, senior Brad Dunavant stepped in and is averaging 44.6 yards on 13 punts this season including a long of 61. The two split time as punters in 2013, both averaging more than 40 yards per punt.
SOPHOMORE KICKER LUC SWIMBERGHE
All-Southland kicker Luc Swimberghe is 17-of-19 on field goals and has totaled 118 points, going 67 of 69 on his PATs. The sophomore is perfect (14-14) on field goal attempts of less than 40 yards.
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. 3 all-time in kick scoring and No. 2 in PATs.
Live coverage begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 and the WatchESPN mobile app with Anish Shroff calling the play-by-play and Kelly Stouffer as color analyst.
BISON’S POSTSEASON HISTORY
This is North Dakota State's fifth straight appearance in the FCS playoffs and its second as the No. 2 overall seed (2011). NDSU is 16-1 in the FCS playoffs including three straight national titles and a quarterfinal appearance in 2010. This is North Dakota State's 28th postseason appearance overall. NDSU has a 51-14 record all-time in the postseason including three College Division national championships in 1965, 1968 and 1969 and five Division II titles in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988 and 1990. NDSU is 46-13 in the NCAA playoff format since 1973.
North Dakota State is allowing just 13.9 points per game and ranks third in the FCS in scoring defense behind only Harvard (12.3 ppg) and North Carolina A&T (13.9 ppg). NDSU led the nation in scoring defense the past three years allowing 12.7 points per game in 2011, then 11.5 points in 2012 and 11.3 points last season. The Bison returned six defensive starters and seven of the top nine tacklers from last year's squad.
NDSU SUCCESS VS. THE FBS
North Dakota State has an 8-3 record and has won five straight games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents after beating Iowa State 34-14 in the season-opener. The Bison are 5-0 against the FBS since 2010 with wins at Kansas (6-3), Minnesota (37-24), Colorado State (22-7), Kansas State (24-21) and Iowa State (34-14).
North Dakota State is just the second team in FCS history to win three straight national championships joining the Appalachian State teams of 2005-07. NDSU set a school record for wins with a 15-0 mark and become the first undefeated national champion since Southern Conference champion Marshall went 15-0 to win the 1996 title.
BISON AT HOME IN THE FARGODOME
North Dakota State has won 22 straight home games and 47 of the last 48 home games over non-conference opponents including 37 straight since a 2003 loss to UC Davis.