No. 6-ranked Sam Houston State plays host to No. 21 McNeese State in the Bearkats' Homecoming game Saturday at 7 p.m. at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium.
Head coach Willie Fritz looks at Saturday's matchup:
Question - For the time since the Sept. 8 season opener, there's no bus to pack up and the Bearkats get to play at Bowers Stadium. After a five-week long trip on the road, what's the feeling like now that the Kats will be playing in front of their own fans this time?
Fritz - When I came back (from Sam Houston's game last at Nicholls in Thibodaux, La., last week), I actually put my suitcase up. We're very excited about being home and especially about it being homecoming.
Question - Last week, McNeese State lost in a similar fashion to Central Arkansas, like Sam Houston did. The Cowboys squandered a 26-17 lead in the final 1:10 of the game, losing 27-26 on a 47-yard field goal by Bears kicker Eddie Camara. Considering how Sam Houston also lost a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to that same Central Arkansas team, can you relate with how McNeese State is handling that type of setback?
Fritz - You've got to be able to overcome that type of adversity. I'm sure they've done a good job of dealing with it and move on and now they're focusing on Sam Houston.
Question - With the types of performances the Bearkats have had on offense, defense and special teams, do you feel like you're right back on track?
Fritz - I feel like last week we didn't come out of the box real well offensively in the first quarter. From that point on, we played pretty darn well. I saw some things. (Nicholls is) a tough defense to run the ball on and we did a good job of running the ball against them. Defensively, anytime you get a shutout, you're happy. In this day and age, you don't see very many goose eggs out there. I thought we played pretty well, pretty good.
Question - Since the loss to Central Arkansas, the Bearkats have known that they'll have to keep winning in order of keeping up hopes of a Southland Conference championship and a potential playoff berth. Now with two conference losses by a total of just two points, another loss could eliminate the Cowboys from that discussion altogether. How have the Bearkats handled "elimination" games in the Southland and what do you do to prepare for another one of those games on Saturday?
Fritz - We're trying to get our guys to focus on this game. We have to have all of our energy and our mental focus on McNeese. They're a good ballclub and two points away from being undefeated. They went up to Middle Tennessee and beat an FBS team up there, so they've got a very good ballclub.
Question - Looking at the numbers, McNeese appears to favor the running game and throw when it they can. How similar is that to what the Bearkats like to do?
Fritz - There's lots of similarities. We're number one in the conference in rushing and they're number two. We're number two in the nation in rush defense and they're number three, so we've got a lot of similarities. They want to run the ball and we want to run it. They believe in packing the box and stopping people from running the ball and we believe in the same thing.
The difference between us is that we play quite a bit more man (defensive coverage) than them and we play more press coverage and they play more off coverage.
Question - Do those similarities help you prepare for a team like resembles your coaching and implementation philosophy?
Fritz - Yeah. It's a four-man (defensive) front and our offense has seen these things. It's the same thing for them.
Question - Despite the similarities, is there any kind of matchup that the Kats need to take advantage of?
Fritz - The big thing is that the pass is going to have a lot to do in this game. People are going to have to have good eyes and making sure they stay over the top of (wide receiver) routes. Last year, we hit a couple of big pass plays on them.
Another big thing about this game with the way they run it and the way we run it, we're both very much time-of-possession teams. There's going to be about 12 series in this game. Compare that to Stephen F. Austin where there was about 18 series per team, so ball security, which is not turning the ball over, is going to be at a premium.
Question - Is McNeese any different than its 2011 squad?
Fritz - It's the same philosophies. There's no difference as far as that's concerned. The only thing I think is that their quarterback (Cody Stroud) is more experienced.
Tickets for Saturday's game are available now online at www.gobearkats.com/tickets. The ticket office at Bowers Stadium will open at 5:30 p.m.
Fans are advised to purchase tickets and enter the stadium early due to the large crowd expected for Homecoming.