Sam Houston State and Cal Poly meet for the first time in both their football histories in an NCAA Division I Championships second round game Saturday at 3 p.m. (Central Time).
The contest matches the nation's No. 5 Football Championship Subdivision team, Sam Houston (8-3, 6-1 Southland) against No. 12 Cal Poly (9-2, 7-1 Big Sky). At stake is a berth in the NCAA quarterfinals against either No. 3 seed Montana State or Stony Brook.
Cal Poly is making its third NCAA Division I Football Championships appearance while Sam Houston is in the playoffs for a sixth year and the Bearkats' second season in a row in NCAA post-season play.
Sam Houston State, 2011 NCAA national finalist, saw its seven-game winning streak snapped by Texas A&M, the No. 8 team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, 47-28, on the final day of the regular season.
The Bearkats earned their second consecutive Southland Conference championship in 2012. Sam Houston earned NCAA Division I playoff berths in 1986, 1991, 2001, 2004 and 2011. The Kats reached the quarterfinals in 2001, the semifinals in 2004 and the championship game in Frisco last year.
The Mustangs opened the 2012 campaign with seven straight wins and won its final two games of the regular season to earn a share of the Big Sky Conference title.
Cal Poly, Montana State and Eastern Washington finished tied for first place in the Big Sky with 7-1 conference records and all three teams earned first-round playoff byes. Montana State (10-1), the No. 2 seed, hosts Stony Brook (10-2) on Saturday while third-seeded Eastern Washington (9-2) entertains Wagner (9-3).
The Mustangs earned NCAA Division I FCS playoff berths in both 2005 and 2008, reaching the quarterfinals in 2005 before falling at Texas State. The Mustangs have won 74 of their last 113 games dating back to the 2002 season finale and have won 28 of their last 54 games on the road.
Sam Houston State, coached by Willie Fritz (third season at Sam Houston State (28-9), 20th season overall (164-61-1), Pittsburg State '83) returned 50 lettermen, including 19 starters, off last year's team which went 14-1 overall, won the Southland Conference title at 7-0 and lost only to North Dakota State 17-6 in the NCAA Division I FCS title game.
Running back Timothy Flanders has rushed for 1,151 yards and 17 touchdowns in 11 games (eight 100-yard games) -- he was named Southland Conference Player of the Year for the second year in a row last week -- while quarterback Brian Bell has completed 149 of 236 passes for 2,033 yards and 19 more scores. Bell also has rushed for 262 yards and four TDs. Bell's favorite receiving targets are Trey Diller with 51 catches and Chance Nelson with 25 receptions, seven for scores.
Miguel Antonio has made 12 of 16 field goals and 61 of 62 PAT kicks. Cornerback Bookie Sneed has four interceptions, returning two for scores. Matt Foster averages 43.6 yards per punt. Defensive leaders are safety Darnell Taylor -- the Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year -- with 79 tackles, linebacker Jesse Beauchamp with 73 (10.5 for lost yardage) and linebacker Darius Taylor with 62 (13.5 for lost yardage, 5.0 sacks).
Sam Houston State has outscored its 11 opponents 44.5 to 19.0 and is averaging 480.5 yards in total offense per game -- 284.9 on the ground and 195.5 through the air -- while giving up 306 yards a contest (77 rushing, 229 passing). The Bearkats are No. 1 in the FCS in scoring offense (44.55), No. 2 in sacks allowed (.36), No. 3 in rushing defense (76.36), No. 4 in net punting (38.94) and passing efficiency (158.44), No. 6 in total offense (480.45), No. 7 in rushing offense (284.91) and No. 9 in total defense (305.36).
Cal Poly earned its third FCS playoff berth in 19 NCAA Division I seasons with a 42-34 win at Northern Arizona two weeks ago. Sophomore slotback Kristaan Ivory scored two touchdowns (13, 1 yards) and senior quarterback Andre Broadous threw a pair of scoring passes (51, 5 yards) as the Mustangs overcame an early 7-0 deficit for their ninth win, equalling the nine-win campaigns posted by the 2004 and 2005 Mustang teams. Senior slotback Deonte Williams surpassed the 100-yard mark for the 10th time this season, finishing with 139 yards on 25 carries, while Cole Stanford caught a pair of 51-yard passes, one for a touchdown. Broadous completed six of nine passes for 180 yards.
Williams is the top rusher in the Big Sky and No. 7 in the FCS in rushing, averaging 132.6 yards per game. He has 11 career 100-yard performances as a Mustang, including a school-record 10 this season, to go with four 100-yard games as a freshman at Northern Arizona in 2008 en route to Big Sky Newcomer of the Year honors. With 1,458 yards in nine games this season, he is the 15th Mustang to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark for a season and Williams needs 121 yards to surpass James Noble's single-season rushing yardage mark of 1,578 yards set in 2005.
Senior cornerback Nico Molino is 23rd in the nation and first in the Big Sky with his four interceptions. As a team, Cal Poly is No. 3 in the FCS in rushing offense (333.3) and the Mustangs also are No. 8 in the FCS in scoring offense (38.6).
Williams, who opened the 2012 season with four consecutive 100-yard games, surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in career rushing as a Mustang seven weeks ago. He now has 1,843 yards in two years at Cal Poly and, including his 2008 freshman season at Northern Arizona, has 2,793 yards in three collegiate campaigns.
Broadous cracked the 3,000-yard mark in career passing as a Mustang last week. He has thrown for 3,007 yards, No. 8 all-time at Cal Poly, and has been picked off just four times in 367 career attempts. With 30 career rushing touchdowns, he needs five more to catch Noble's school record, and he also has passed for 31 career touchdowns, No. 5 all-time. Broadous has rushed for 1,405 yards in his Mustang career.
Tickets for the game are available on line at www.gobearkats.com/tickets .