Highlighted by a rematch of last December's NCAA Division I Championships semifinal with Eastern Washington, Sam Houston State has announced its 2013 football schedule.
Bearkat director of athletics Bobby Williams and head football coach Willie Fritz made the announcement of the 2013 schedule that includes three non-conference and three Southland home contests at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium, the "Battle of the Piney Woods" rivalry game at Reliant Stadium and a trip to College Station to face Cotton Bowl champion Texas A&M.
Williams and Fritz also indicated that efforts still are being made to add a 12th regular season game.
"Everyone involved in Bearkat athletics is thrilled about our exciting football schedule for 2013," Williams said. "With six games in Huntsville and two more just one hour away in Houston and College Station, Sam Houston fans will have plenty of opportunities to come cheer for their nationally ranked Bearkats."
The "crown jewel" of the home slate is a September 28 date matching the teams that stood No. 2 and No. 4 in last season's final Football Championship Subdivision national rankings.
No. 2 Sam Houston defeated No. 4 Eastern Washington 45-42 in a contest that was an instant classic. The Bearkats raced out to a 35-0 halftime lead only to see the Eagles roar back to score 42 second half points. A 42-yard field goal by Miquel Antonio with 5:33 to play proved to be the difference that earned Sam Houston its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Division I national championship game in Frisco.
Eastern Washington travels to Huntsville for a Sept. 28 date with a Sam Houston squad that is 5-0 against the Big Sky in the past two years. EWU tied for the Big Sky Conference co-championship in 2012.
Sept. 28's contest with EWU also will be the highlight of 2013 Sam Houston Parents / Family Weekend in Huntsville.
"As in the past, our athletic administration and football staff have worked diligently together to make this schedule possible," Williams said. "We've had some amazing crowds for Bearkat football both here in Huntsville at Bowers and at Reliant Stadium in Houston. With the success of the past two seasons, we're looking for even bigger things in 2013."
Southwestern Athletic Conference member Texas Southern and future Southland Conference member Incarnate Word of San Antonio are Sam Houston's first two non-conference home foes on Sept. 14 and 21, respectively.
Sam Houston State will start its campaign for a third consecutive Southland Conference football championship by hosting Lamar Oct. 12. Other Southland Bowers Stadium dates are Northwestern State Oct. 26 and Nicholls State Nov. 9.
The contest with the Lamar Cardinals Oct. 12 has been designated as Sam Houston's 2013 Homecoming game.
"Six home games and the trip to Reliant Stadium make this a great schedule for us," Fritz said. "The enthusiastic crowds we've had at Bowers Stadium and Reliant during the two championship seasons have been a big key to our success.
"We had to work hard to fill out the non-conference schedule after Alabama State did not honor their contract and never notified us," Fritz added. "But the effort paid off and we're looking forward to see even more orange in the stands both at home and on the road."
Sam Houston will play three Southland Conference road games in 2013, traveling to McNeese State Oct. 19, Southeastern Louisiana Nov. 16 and Central Arkansas Nov. 23.
"Returning to Conway for the second year in a row to play Central Arkansas was a scheduling decision made by the Southland Conference," Williams said. "Our appeal to change that decision was denied."
The Bearkats stand 25-5 during the past two seasons with records of 14-1 and 11-4 during their Southland championship seasons in 2011 and 2012. In the 50 years of Southland Conference football, only three programs (Arkansas State in 1968-70, Louisiana Tech in 1972-74 and McNeese State in 2001-03) have won three Southland football titles in a row.
The 88th "Battle of the Piney Woods" will be played at Reliant Stadium in Houston Nov. 2. The past three years, the annual rivalry battle has drawn crowds of more than 25,000 fans to the home of the Houston Texans.
Sam Houston State will be announcing season ticket packages shortly as renewal information will go out to Bearkat season ticket holders. For more information about tickets, go to www.gobearkats.com or call the Sam Houston athletic ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House at (936) 294-1729.
SAM HOUSTON STATE UNIVERSITY 2013 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
September 7 - Saturday - TBA - at Texas A&M
September 14 - Saturday - 6 p.m. - Texas Southern
September 21 - Saturday - 6 p.m. - Incarnate Word
September 28 - Saturday - 3 p.m. - Eastern Washington
October 12 - Saturday - 2 p.m. - Lamar
October 19 - Saturday - TBA - at McNeese State
October 26 - Saturday - 2 p.m. - Northwestern State
November 2 - Saturday - 3 p.m. - Stephen F. Austin - Reliant Stadium
November 9 - Saturday - 2 p.m. - Nicholls State
November 16 - Saturday - TBA - at Southeastern Louisiana
November 23 - Saturday - TBA - at Central Arkansas