HUNTSVILLE – Fourth-ranked Sam Houston State learns its FCS Playoffs journey on Sunday. On Saturday, it reached the 10-win mark with another statement victory.
The Bearkats rolled up 600-plus yards of total offense, blocked a field goal and two point-after attempts while stuffing the Huskies at the line, defeating Houston Baptist, 53-33 on Senior Day at Bowers Stadium.
For the first time since Oct. 13, 1979, three Sam Houston (10-1, 8-1 Southland) receivers surpassed the century mark. Nathan Stewart hauled in three touchdowns to go alongside 198 yards while Yedidiah Louis accounted for 125 yards and a score. Davion Davis added a score and 108 yards.
The Bearkats, who honored 16 seniors prior to the game, sent the group out in style. The victory was the 44th since 2014 as the winningest-class in program history continued its assault on the record book. The group is 25-2 at Bowers Stadium in four seasons.
Jeremiah Briscoe threw for 464 yards on 28-of-43 passing to go alongside five touchdowns. The senior also ran one in from one yard out for the first score of the game after Louis hauled in a 41-yard diving grab at the half-yard line.
Chris Stewart matched P.J. Hall’s program record with two blocked point-after attempts. The junior also scooped a forced fumble by Josh Price as time expired in the third quarter, setting up the final touchdown of the game. Hall also blocked the 14th field goal of his career.
With the win, Sam Houston has now claimed 10 or more victories in four-straight seasons and six of the last seven years. It is the ninth time in the 102-year history of the program that a Sam Houston team has accomplished the feat. It was also the 18th-straight win at Bowers Stadium, a mark that began on Sept. 26, 2015, against the Huskies. The school record is 23 (2010-14).
The FCS Championship Selection Show will take place on Sunday at 10 a.m. on ESPNU. The Bearkats have made 10 FCS playoff appearances and are just one of three teams to reach the playoffs each of the last six seasons. The Kats are 14-6 during that span.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sam Houston scored on four of its last five drives in the first quarter including three touchdown passes from Briscoe. Corey Avery set up the second scoring drive on the day, taking a 60-yard rush up the middle to surpass 3,000 career rushing yards. The senior finished with 124 yards on 11 carries.
The next two strikes were record-tying for the Kats, courtesy of a 13-yard fade strike to Louis and 67-yard scamper down the right sideline to find paydirt for Davis. On each touchdown, the pair tied Matt Dominguez’s program-leading mark of 27 career touchdowns.
With the 67-yard touchdown pass, Briscoe extended his program-best career mark and became the first player in program history with 10,000 passing yards while doing so in three seasons.
After battling wind gusts of 30 miles-per-hour through the second quarter, the Kats offense stalled but received a boost from the special teams unit. Hall swatted down a 52-yard Huskies’ field goal attempt and the offense responded, capping a 4-play, 56-yard drive with a 39-yard touchdown to Stewart.
The wideout slipped through would-be tacklers for his second of the game. The score extended the Kats lead to 33-7 with under five minutes remaining in the half. Meanwhile, the block was the 14th for Hall, who extended his program-best mark.
Stewart added to his resume midway through the third quarter, answering a Houston Baptist touchdown with a 63-yard race to paydirt as part of a 3-play, 82-yard drive in just 48 seconds. Tre Honshtein added a pair of field goals in the frame as the Kats upped their lead to 48-21.
In the waning seconds of the third quarter, the Bearkat defense set up the offense deep in Huskies territory as Price forced a fumble and Chris Stewart recovered at the 17-yard line. Two plays later, Jordan Brown found paydirt on a 14-yard scamper for the 53-21 lead.
It marked the 15th time overall Sam Houston has posted 50 or more points in a game with 12 of those coming since K.C. Keeler took the helm in 2014.
Head coach K.C. Keeler opening statement…
“Last week at the Abilene Christian game with giving them short fields and their punter did a really good job punting the ball … the wind really didn’t affect HBU like it affected us. But for us to have three receivers with over 100 receiving yards each in this kind of conditions and your quarterback has five touchdown passes … it is a pretty impressive day. I didn’t think their offense could produce as much as they did. I am a little disappointed on the point that we gave up. The fact that they won those two quarters was a difference from last week where we won the first and the fourth and the fact they won the second and third really wore us out. This week we won first and third quarters and having it in the third helped us put the game away. Luckily in the fourth quarter we got some stuff fixed and worked on. (The) fourth 10-win season in a row has never been done in the history at Sam Houston and we say goodbye to an amazing senior group, some of the best to have played here.”
Head coach K.C. Keeler on the mindset entering the FCS Playoffs…
“We don’t really care too much about who we play but we want to have a first round bye. Because we just got done playing nine straight and I think we are feeling the effects of that. We would like to play at home after that we really don’t care and we can’t complain about because we can’t do anything about it. I was asked what our preference is and I told them I am just glad we can play in the playoffs and put ourselves in a good position to have a first round bye and home game. We are like on a 17-game win streak here at home. When I talked to the recruits before the game I told them, ‘welcome to the one of the most tradition-rich football programs in America.’ This program has won 78 ball games in the past seven years. That is unbelievable. We are really proud. The last thing on our resume to complete is that National Championship. That is how they want to go out on.”
Jeremiah Briscoe about winning the last game at Bowers…
“It was huge. We had talked all week long about how we can’t start looking ahead and how this is a game that we have to get better. We have to come out and we have to win in order to make sure this isn’t our last game at Bowers. That was something we talked about and I thought we played great. I think that if you look at this senior class, these seniors have made it to the quarterfinals every year. So, these seniors know what it takes to win, they know how to get there. So, it was huge.”
P.J. Hall on winning the last game at Bowers…
“We were ready to go out there and get a win on senior night. We kind of figured if we get this win it wouldn’t be our last win. That’s why we had to make sure we played hard. Everybody stepped up and did a good job. So, it sent us out on a good note for our last conference game.”
Jeremiah Briscoe on why the team is special…
“They are all so unselfish and they can beat you with multiple moves and ways whether it’s catching a two-yard pass and taking it 80 or with just straight speed. I think what makes them so special is they are all so unselfish and we really kind of meshed. It’s one of the best receiving corps in the country. And I think I missed a lot of throws tonight and they made some unbelievable plays. It’s pretty incredible to watch what they do.”
Junior Nathan Stewart on the senior class…
“This was an emotional game for me just as it was for Briscoe and all the other seniors. I feel like I never experienced a quarterback who has experience like Briscoe. I told him before the game I’m here with you and whatever I can do for you I’m going to play my heart out in this game and it’s just good to see the seniors leave with a W. So, I just hope when my senior year comes, the underclassmen will do the same for me.”
“Having Yedi back is unbelievable. His whole presence out there and what he does for our team and our offense is indescribable. He’s an unbelievable player. He makes unbelievable plays in big-time situations.”
P.J. Hall on having a kick block record…
“Really it was all about effort and giving effort during those plays. That’s it. Our Coach makes sure there’s not a play off so it’s just trying hard and trying to make a play. You never know we could end up being down by 2 or 3 points and that could be a big play.”