HUNTSVILLE – It was not easy by any stretch. In the FCS Playoffs, however, the Bearkats will take it.
Sixth-seeded Sam Houston State saw its four-touchdown halftime lead trimmed to two points early in the fourth quarter before responding with a 9-play, 75-yard drive and late field goal to defeat South Dakota, 54-42 in the second round of the playoffs on Saturday at Bowers Stadium.
The victory, combined with a Kennesaw State upset of Jacksonville State, means Sam Houston (11-1) will host the Owls in the quarterfinals next weekend at Bowers Stadium. The win, which matched the most points for a playoff game in program history, moved the Bearkats to 12-0 all-time at the venue in the postseason.
Bearkats hold on!— FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) December 2, 2017
No. 6 Sam Houston State holds off a furious South Dakota rally, 54-42, and advances to the quarterfinals for the 5th time in the past 7 seasons #FCSPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/MLP0hQjmat
Davion Davis accounted for four touchdowns, including three through the air, as Sam Houston racked up 708 yards of total offense, the third most in program history. In the process, the wideout Davis became Sam Houston's leader in touchdown receptions with 30. Quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe completed 28 of 43 passes for 505 yards to seven different receivers, including eight catches for 131 yards to Davis.
Nathan Stewart led the Sam Houston receiving corps with 180 yards alongside one score. Meanwhile, Corey Avery totaled 16 carries for 100 yards and two scores while Remus Bulmer picked up 82 yards on 13 carries. Both averaged 6.3 per carry.
South Dakota (8-5), who entered the game ranked No. 2 in total offense in the country behind SHSU, stormed back, outscoring Sam Houston 14-0 in the third quarter. Much of that came thanks to 520 yards passing from quarterback Chris Streveler who completed 33 of 54 passes alongside five scores for the night. The shootout featured a combined 55 first downs and 1,345 yards including 1,025 passing.
But late in the game, when the Bearkats needed it the most, it was the defense who stepped up. Khalil Welsh provided a key interception at Sam Houston’s 17-yard line, halting a 5-play, 58-yard Coyotes’ drive with Sam holding a 51-42 lead. Sam Houston also stopped South Dakota on a pair of fourth downs in the fourth quarter.
Tre Honshtein provided the Bearkats a boost in the fourth, nailing both field goals he attempted including a 28-yarder that stretched the lead the lead to nine points with 11:33 remaining. The junior hit again from 40 yards with 2:53 left as the advantage reached 54-42.
Sam Houston ran off 27 second-quarter points, finding paydirt on four of five drives, while marching 70-plus yards on each. Davis started and capped the scoring on the frame with a 3-yard, end-around rush and 12-yard touchdown reception, respectively.
The Bearkats led 41-14 at the half, totaling 468 yards at the midway point. Davis used a 44-yard catch and run to start the scoring on Sam Houston’s first drive. After the Coyotes knotted it up, the Kats responded with a 10-play, 87-yard drive, capped by a 13-yard pass and catch to Davis for the 14-7 advantage.
The third quarter was not find the Sam Houston, however, as the Kats were limited to 28 total yards on 14 plays. South Dakota scored on its first two drives of the second half, cutting its deficit to 41-28. One play into the fourth, the Coyotes capped a 49-yard drive was capped by a two-yard rush, making it 41-35.
Head coach K.C. Keeler on facing a talented South Dakota team…
“It is the playoffs and that is the game you have to expect. Rob Nielson I have known for a long time since we played against each other in 1988. Wow, he is a heck of a coach and that is one heck of a football team. Watching them on tape what impressed me was their quarterback ability to extend the plays. You just saw two of the best QB out there tonight again. Coming out of the halftime we knew we were going to have to come out and play a second half. Their guys came out and gave us a three and out and all of a sudden they have a short field and went out and scored points.”
Head coach K.C. Keeler on hanging on for the second round victory…
“We were down our best corner and the worst teams to be down in the secondary is us and them. So we threw a zone defense out in the second half to help the secondary out and you can’t do that against their quarterback who just extended the play and found guys in the open windows. Offensively you saw what we could do with 700 yards and 54 points. It is great to get a win and we are 12-0 at home in the playoffs. We get the chance to play again at home against Kennesaw State here at home.”
Head coach K.C. Keeler on Khalil Welsh pick…
“He missed six games earlier in the year and that kind of hurt us. The fact that he is back helped us move Chris Stewart – which he is tied for sixth in the nation in sacks – to the outside and PJ Hall to the inside. Khalil gets in there and he is a fast motor guy on the inside. He is the kind of guy who coaches’ love because he has is just nonstop moving. It is really nice to see him make a play because he is a locker room favorite.”
Davion Davis on how big of a game this was…
“I’m just playing the game, going off of what we went over on film. I was just doing my job.”
Davion Davis on his success in the first half…
“I was going out there and doing what I was supposed to do but it felt good. I was playing for my grandma tonight and it was just exciting.”
Jeremiah Briscoe on Corey Avery’s performance…
“Corey gets so overshadowed and I don’t think Corey gets enough nearly as much respect as he should’ve. He’s a special player and one of the most unselfish people. He’s always doing what he’s supposed to do and he’s not afraid to make a big time play.”
Jeremiah Briscoe on adjustments needed to play…
“After the half they made some adjustments because they are a dang good football team and we answered to what they were going to do. So, they kind of stopped us there for a second but we just got back rolling.”
Jeremiah Briscoe on being at home…
“Not having to travel at all and all those other distractions that could pop up, and then our home crowd. We are pretty tough to beat here which is a huge advantage.”