Championship Game News & Notes
Sam Houston State Draws Rematch with Bison in Title Game:
Sam Houston State (11-3) returns to NCAA Division I Football Championship Game for the second consecutive season and will face defending champion North Dakota State Saturday at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The Bison beat the Bearkats 17-6 in the title game last year.
The game is sold out for the second consecutive year. Kickoff for the game will be at noon, CT, on ESPN2 and WatchESPN as well as the Dial Global Radio Network. Dave Neal, Jay Walker and Cara Capuano will have the call on television, while John Tautges and Terry Donahue will describe the game for a national radio audience.
Southland History in Division I Playoffs:
Southland Conference schools own a 51-54 all-time record in the Division I playoffs, highlighted by McNeese State's 14 all-time appearances. The eight teams currently in the Southland account for 32 wins in the playoffs.
The Bearkats are 9-5 in six playoff appearances and their .643 win percentage is the best among current league teams. Sam Houston's appearance in the championship game is the eighth by a Southland team. It is the first conference team to make back-to-back title game appearances. The Bearkats' semifinals appearance was the 15th by a Southland Conference team. Sam Houston has reached the semifinals in three of the last nine seasons. Southland teams also reached the semifinals in 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2011.
Prior to last season, Southland teams had not played for a national championship since McNeese State in 2002. Former league member Louisiana-Monroe is the only Southland team to win the NCAA Division I championship, winning the title in 1987.
Southland is Host for Division I Title Game:
The Southland Conference, in conjunction with the City of Frisco and Hunt Sports Group, is the host of the 2013 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game, which will be played Saturday at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas, which has been home to the league since 2006. This marks the third year for the game to be played in Frisco. Last year, North Dakota State defeated Southland entrant Sam Houston State 17-6, while Eastern Washington came from behind to score three times in the final 17 minutes on its way to a 20-19 win over Delaware. Both winners in Frisco have been first-time champions.
Sam Houston State, North Dakota State Join Elite Group:
North Dakota State and Sam Houston State are the seventh and eighth teams in NCAA Division I FCS history to earn a berth into the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game in consecutive seasons. The other teams are Eastern Kentucky (1979-1982), Georgia Southern (1985-86, 1988-90; 1998-2000), Marshall (1991-93), Youngstown State (1991-94), Montana (1995-96, 2000-01, 2008-09) and Appalachian State (2005-07).
Fourth Championship Rematch in FCS History:
When North Dakota State and Sam Houston State meet Jan. 5 in Frisco it will be a rematch of last year's championship game. The Bison beat the Bearkats 17-6 last year in the championship game last year in Frisco. There have been three previous rematches in the FCS championship game since it started in 1978. Youngstown State and Marshall played three consecutive season from 1991 through 1993, making the 1992 and 1993 games rematches. Montana and Marshall played in the 1995 and 1996 games.
1991 Youngstown State 25, Marshall 17
1992 Marshall 31, Youngstown State 28
1993 Youngstown State 17, Marshall 5
1995 Montana 22, Marshall 20
1996 Marshall 49, Montana 29
2011 North Dakota State 17, Sam Houston State 6
2012 North Dakota State vs. Sam Houston State
Sam Houston's Win at Eastern Washington was League's 51st Playoff Victory:
Sam Houston State's 45-42 victory at Eastern Washington Dec. 15 was the 51st all-time playoff victory for the Southland Conference, which improved to 51-54 all-time in the playoffs.
The last four teams to win the NCAA Division I Football Championship, including both winners in Frisco, have been first-time champions. After Appalachian State won three consecutive championships between 2005 and 2007, Richmond began a four-year run of first-time winners, including Richmond in 2008, Villanova in 2009, Eastern Washington following the 2010 season and North Dakota State last year. Sam Houston State could continue that trend by winning its first title in a rematch with the Bison this year.
Sam Houston State in the Playoffs:
Sam Houston State is making its sixth appearance in the Division I playoffs and its second consecutive appearance in the championship game. Last year marked the Bearkats' first appearance in the title game after a semifinal appearance in 2004. That came after a quarterfinal berth in 2001 and first-round appearances in 1986 and 1991. Sam Houston improved to 9-5 in the Division I playoffs after wins over Cal Poly (18-16) in a second-round game in Huntsville, Texas; Montana State (34-16) in the quarterfinal round in Bozeman, Mont.; and Eastern Washington (45-42) in the semifinals in Cheney, Wash., for the right to play in the title game. The Bearkats' 64.3 win percentage is the best among current league members. The Bearkats were 3-1 in the playoffs last season and have a 6-0 all-time record at home in NCAA Division I playoff games. Sam Houston has won its last 14 games at Bowers Stadium, where it was perfect in just four home games this season. The Bearkats are 3-5 away from Bowers in the playoffs all time, including a 3-4 record in true road games to go with last year's neutral-site loss in the national championship game. The game at Montana State was the first road playoff game for Sam Houston since 2004. After winning a 54-24 decision against Western Kentucky in the first round that year, the Bearkats won 45-34 at Eastern Washington before a semifinal loss at Montana (34-13).
Sam Houston State Swept Big Sky Co-Champions:
With playoff wins against Cal Poly, Montana State and Eastern Washington, Sam Houston State swept the three Big Sky Conference champions. The three times finished 7-1 in league play to share this year's title. The Big Sky has been a nemesis of Southland Conference teams in the playoffs, holding a 25-15 edge in playoff games. Sam Houston's win at Eastern Washington was just the fifth playoff win (5-21) in a Big Sky stadium. Prior to the quarterfinal game at Montana State, a Southland team had not won a road playoff game against a Big Sky team since 2004 when Sam Houston won 35-34 at Eastern Washington. Sam Houston State is 7-2 all-time against Big Sky teams in the playoffs and has won its last five, including last year's co-champions Montana State and Montana.
About the Bearkats:
Sam Houston State is back in the championship game for the second consecutive season after falling 17-6 to North Dakota State last year in Frisco. That was the first trip to the title game for the Bearkats, who are making their sixth playoff appearance this season. Sam Houston swept all three Big Sky Conference co-champions - Cal Poly (18-16), Montana State (34-16) and Eastern Washington (45-42) - to get back to the championship game. The Bearkats defeated Stony Brook, Montana State and Montana to reach the title game a season ago. Sam Houston, which is unseeded but ranked No. 5 in both FCS polls, is 11-3 overall and shared the Southland Conference championship with Central Arkansas at 6-1. Sam Houston, which is 25-4 in the last two years, is 31-9 under third-year head coach Willie Fritz.
About the Bison:
North Dakota State is in the Division I playoffs for the third consecutive season and won its first FCS championship last year, a season after reaching the quarterfinals before falling to Eastern Washington, the eventual national champion. North Dakota State is 13-1 overall and was 7-1 to win the Missouri Valley Football Conference one game ahead of South Dakota State, a team it beat during the regular season and again in the second round (28-3) of this year's playoffs. The Bison followed with a 14-7 win against Wofford and defeated Georgia Southern (23-20) for the second consecutive season to reach the championship game. Craig Bohl is 88-32 in his 10th season as the head coach at North Dakota State. The Bison are the winningest program in both Division I subdivisions with a 26-2 record the last two seasons.
A Further Look at North Dakota State:
The Bison are averaging 32.6 points and 365.1 yards per game on offense and are limiting opponents to 11.4 points and 223.3 yards per game. North Dakota State has a balanced offense, averaging 196.6 yards on the ground and 168.6 yards passing. Quarterback Brock Jensen has completed 61.5 percent of his passes (198 of 322) for 2,216 yards and 17 touchdowns and has thrown only eight interceptions. He has added nine rushing touchdowns but the bulk of the team's rushing yards come from running backs John Crockett and Sam Ojuri. In 14 games and only one as a starter, Crockett has 956 yards on 183 carries and nine touchdowns. He averages 68.3 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry. Ojuri has 955 yards and 10 touchdowns on 201 carries in 13 games. He averages 73.5 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. The trio accounts for 28 of the team's 35 rushing touchdowns. The team's leading receiver is Ryan Smith, who has 47 receptions for 519 yards and three scores. Zach Vraa has 575 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 43 catches. Grant Olson is the team's leading tackler with 96 stops to go with 11.5 tackles for loss. Cole Jirik leads the team with 13.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Marcus Williams leads the team with five interceptions.
Southland's Eighth Entry in Title Game:
Sam Houston State is the Southland Conference's eighth entry into the Division I Football Championship Game and is the first team to make back-to-back appearances. Southland teams made consecutive appearances once previously with former league member Arkansas State falling to Georgia Southern in 1986 before Louisiana-Monroe defeated Marshall to win the 1987 championship, the only national title won by the Southland. The league made four appearances in the title game during a six-year span from 1984-89. Louisiana Tech played Montana State in 1984 and Stephen F. Austin played Georgia Southern in 1989. McNeese State faced Youngstown State in 1997 and Western Kentucky in 2002 before Sam Houston State consecutive appearances in 2011 and 2012.
Southland Conference Title Game Appearances
1984 Montana State 19, Louisiana Tech* 6
1986 Georgia Southern 48, Arkansas St.* 21
1987 Louisiana-Monroe* 43, Marshall 42
1989 Georgia Southern 37, Stephen F. Austin 34
1997 Youngstown St. 10, McNeese St. 9
2002 Western Kentucky 34, McNeese St. 14
2011 North Dakota St. 17, Sam Houston St. 6
2012 North Dakota St. vs. Sam Houston St.
* indicates former Southland Conference team
Sam Houston vs. North Dakota State: This will be the fourth meeting between Sam Houston State and North Dakota State with the Bison holding a 2-1 edge after defeating the Bearkats 17-6 in last year's national championship game. The Bison claimed the first meeting 41-38 in 2007 at the Fargodome in the final seconds and then the Bearkats returned the favor in 2009 when they kicked a field goal to win 48-45 in Huntsville. Sam Houston State is 7-7-1 against the current membership of the Missouri Valley Football Conference: 5-4-1 against Western Illinois and 1-1 against Missouri State and 1-2 vs. North Dakota State. North Dakota State is 8-1 against current members of the Southland Conference: 2-0 vs. Nicholls State, Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin and 2-1 vs. Sam Houston State.
Against Eastern Washington: Sam Houston punched its return ticket to Frisco with a 45-42 victory at No. 2 seed Eastern Washington Dec. 15. Sam Houston led 35-0 at halftime, but quarterback Vernon Adams engineered an Eagle comeback as the Bearkats had to run out the clock on their final possession to earn a win by the margin of Miguel Antonio's 42-yard field goal. Sam Houston All-America running back Timothy Flanders rushed 34 times for 231 yards. His most important run, however, was a 5-yard gain on third and three with less than a minute left. The 231 yards was Flanders' second best rushing performance in his three year career. The junior, with 25 100-yard rushing performances to his credit, ran for 287 yards in last year's Sam Houston semifinal victory over Montana. Richard Sincere added to Sam Houston's 399 yards Saturday, carrying 10 times for 69 yards. The teams combined for 1,007 total offense yards and 87 points.
Sam Houston Recorded First 'Turf Trifecta': When Sam Houston State visited Eastern Washington in a semifinal game Dec. 15 in Cheney, it became the first team to play on all three colored artificial surfaces in NCAA Division I football. The Bearkats played on Boise State's blue turf in 1995 and played on the purple-and-gray striped turf at Central Arkansas earlier this season.
Bearkats Cruise at Montana State: Quarterback Brian Bell passed for 254 yards and three touchdowns to lead No. 5- Sam Houston State to a 34-16 victory over No. 2 Montana State Dec. 7 at Bobcat Stadium. Trey Diller caught a 56-yard touchdown pass from Bell and Chance Nelson had scoring receptions of 16 and 45 yards. Bell completed 11 of 21 passes. The 254 yards marked his third highest passing total as the Bearkats' quarterback. Nelson ended the game with five receptions for 89 yards. Diller had three catches for 104 yards. Timothy Flanders led the Bearkat ground game, carrying 31 times for 106 yards. The performance was Flanders' ninth 100-yard rushing game of the 2012 season. Both marks are Sam Houston school records. The Bearkats totaled 458 yards with 204 coming on the ground and 254 in the air. The Sam Houston defense produced two turnovers and five quarterback sacks as the Bearkats limited Montana State to 72 yards rushing and 292 yards total offense.
Sam Houston State Holds on against Cal Poly: Miguel Antonio kicked field goals of 20, 32 and 26 yards and running back Timothy Flanders rushed 17 times for 101 yards as No. 5 Sam Houston State held off No. 12 Cal Poly for an 18-16 victory Dec. 1 in Huntsville. Cal Poly quarterback Andre Broadous rushed for 54 yards and passed for 113 more. The Mustangs cut the margin to two points on a 50-yard halfback reserve pass by Ryan Taylor to Willie Tucker with 1:34 to play. But Sam Houston's Trey Diller recovered the on-side kick attempt and the Bearkats ran out the clock. Keshawn Hill scored the Bearkats' only touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Brian Bell with 0:31 left in the third quarter to end a nine-play, 83-yard drive.
Three Bearkats Lead Six Southland AP All-Americans: Sam Houston State safety Darnell Taylor headlines a group of six players from the Southland Conference that were named to the FCS All-American Team by the Associated Press on Dec. 12. Taylor earned first-team honors. He was joined on the team by teammates Timothy Flanders at running back and Andrew Weaver on the defensive line. Central Arkansas offensive lineman Corey Howard and Southeastern Louisiana defensive back Robert Alford earned second team mention. Stephen F. Austin receiver Cordell Roberson earned third-team honors.
Fritz Shares Regional Coach of the Year Honors: Sam Houston State head coach Willie Fritz and Montana State's Rob Ash were named the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Region Five Co-Coaches of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association. Fritz has guided the Bearkats to a 11-3 record and Sam Houston's second consecutive Southland Conference championship and NCAA Division I Football Championships playoff berth. The Bearkats finished the regular season ranked No. 5 nationally. The back-to-back Southland titles and FCS playoff appearances in 2011 and 2012 are a school first. In three years at Sam Houston, Fritz has guided the program to a 31-9 overall record, the most victories in any three-year period in the university's 97 seasons of football. Fritz is a repeat winner of the AFCA Regional Coach-of-the-Year honor, receiving the award in 2011 after a 14-1 season that saw the Bearkats reach the national championship game.
Sam Houston State Leads League with 16 All-Conference Selections: Sam Houston State led all conference teams 16 student-athletes on the two all-conference squads. Running back Timothy Flanders was a first-team running back, while Darnell Taylor was a first-team defensive back. They were joined on the first team by tight end T.J. Jones, offensive linemen Kaleb Hopson and Chris Rogers, all-purpose player Richard Sincere, defensive lineman J.T. Cleveland, linebacker Darius Taylor, defensive back Dax Swanson and punter Matt Foster. The Bearkats' six second-team honorees include quarterback Brian Bell, receiver and kick return specialist Trey Diller, defensive lineman Gary Lorance and defensive backs Kenneth Jenkins and Bookie Sneed. Sam Houston added seven honorable mention selections.