Before Timothy Flanders broke for a 41-yard touchdown to set the new all-time Southland Conference career rushing record Saturday, the Sam Houston State offensive linemen knew how close Flanders was to history.
The group discussed going to “get this one for Tim” when the drive began following an interception by SHSU defensive back Johntel Franklin.
It took just two plays and 41 seconds to get Flanders to the end zone.
“I remember running down. We all ran down, gave him a high-five to congratulate him,” sophomore offensive lineman Zachary Stevens said. “It was just a great moment for him and for our team. It might not seem like it, but that record means a lot to the offensive line because just knowing that we helped him do that. It’s a great moment for all of us.”
The SHSU offensive line has become younger in the past three seasons. In 2011, when the Bearkats won their first of back-to-back Southland Conference titles, there was a pair of All-American fifth-year seniors anchoring the line in Travis Watson and Chris Crockett.
Last season, it was Riley Smith, Chris Rogers, Dan Jenkins, Kaleb Hopson and Scott Gonzales that provided senior leadership up front. Now, with a less experienced offensive line and just one senior out of the group in Matt Boyles, Flanders is helping the transition go over a lot smoother.
“It’s great. Our offensive game is centered around the running game,” Stevens said. “Having a guy like Tim in the backfield and having the running backs that we do have, they compliment us. Sometimes we might not look good but they make us look good. Having a guy like (Flanders) who can spring free and break one for 6, or get us the first down whenever we need one, it just makes everybody look better. He’s a great player to have back there.”
Boyles said last week that Flanders patience to follow his blockers is big part of the success in the running game. That ability has led to 4,720 yards over the last four seasons, with at least eight games to spare before a likely playoff run.
“He just does a really good job of knowing where we’re going to go making the most of what we give him,” Boyles said. “Sometimes he makes us look good, even better than we are, which is cool.”
SHSU head coach Willie Fritz added after Saturday’s game: “They’ve been playing football in this conference for 50 years. It’s great that a guy that’s such a team player got the record. The offensive linemen that played with him over the years, quarterbacks, receivers, anybody that’s been involved in the scout team take a part in this record that he just established for them. I’m very proud of that.”