The Sam Houston State football team proved the Bearkats could play in the cold with a dominating performance with a 34-16 NCAA quarterfinal victory at Montana State Friday night.

Bobcat fans who hope the pregame snow storm and below 32 degrees temperature would intimidate the Texans were disappointed.

Sam Houston answered the call in a resounding way with an outstanding performance.

The Bearkat defense stifled Bobcats quarterback DeNarius McGhee in the first half and the Bearkats used that to take a double-digit lead into halftime (20-3).

Just like in the 2011 quarterfinal, Montana State methodically moved its way down the field and scored on its first possession of the second half to cut away at the deficit.

Sam Houston buckled down defensively, holding the Bobcats to 10 yards in the next three possessions that ended on a fumble and a pair of punts.

Meanwhile, the Bearkats offense kept hitting big plays to move the ball and put up a couple of more touchdowns as Brian Bell hit wide receiver Chance Nelson for crucial 16- and 45-yard touchdowns to put the game away.

In order to advance to this week's national semifinal showdown against Eastern Washington, the Bearkats needed have a lot of those things go their way, especially in front of a hostile crowd of 16,417 in a frigid 32 degrees with the wind chill making it feel like 22 degrees.

At this point of the season, what Sam Houston needed was to win the turnover battle, force mistakes with defensive pressure, stay balanced offensively and also win the time of possession.

That's just what the Bearkats were able to do against a team that had previously lost just one game all season by a mere three points (27-24) to the No. 2 seeded Eagles of Eastern Washington.

By passing all of those tests with straight A's, it's no surprise that Sam Houston was able to put the game out of reach with more than 10 minutes to go.

It's said often how much turnovers can change the dynamic of the game one way or the other. On Friday, the Bearkats provided another prime example of that being true.

A Kenneth Jenkins interception early in the first quarter against Montana State provided Sam Houston with plenty of good field position that the Kats turned into a 24-yard field goal by Miguel Antonio.

Then in the third quarter, on the possession following a Bobcats' 75-yard touchdown drive, Sam Houston senior cornerback Dax Swanson stripped Montana State receiver Jon Ellis of the ball, negating a would-be first-down conversion and defensive lineman Andrew Weaver recovered it on the Bobcats' 16-yard line. The Kats scored on the next day to take an 18-point advantage.

The defense finished the two turnovers, while the offense didn't commit any for the second game in a row, which is just as important.

Heading into last Friday's quarterfinal, the Bobcats had averaged 424.3 yards of offense per game, but were limited to 292 (72 rushing and 220 passing) by the quick, hard-hitting Sam Houston defense. From the start of the second quarter, the Bearkats held Montana State to just one score in seven possessions with five three-and-outs before the Bobcats' final window-dressing touchdown with 2:52 to play.

The Kats make no bones about it, they're going to blitz and do it often. Sam Houston's defense was able to contain McGhee for the most part, leaving him little time to make a good throw or to find running room.

With running back Timothy Flanders pounding for tough yardage early against the Bobcats, charging for 65 first-half yards, defenders began to commit more to stopping the run.

With fewer Bobcats in the secondary, that opened up the passing game for quarterback Brian Bell and receivers Trey Diller and Chance Nelson. Bell connected for a pair of big touchdowns to both Diller and Nelson as the junior quarterback completed 11-of-21 passes for 254 yards (23.1-yard per completion average) and three TD strikes in one of his best performances of the season.

Sam was also able to keep Montana State off balance, hitting the Bobcats with the run with Flanders (31 carries for 106 yards), Bell (five carries for 33 yards) as well as Richard Sincere (eight rushes for 30 yards and a TD).

The Bearkats also were able to keep the Montana State offense on the sideline for much of the game as well. Sam Houston's offense was on the field for 36 minutes, limiting the Bobcats offense to only 24 minutes.

With another road game to Cheney, Wash., for the FCS semifinals Saturday, the Kats will need to do those same things well to pick up another hard-fought win that would earn another ticket to the FCS national championship game.