Sam Houston hosts its 80th homecoming football game Saturday in a 2 p.m. duel with Lamar at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium. Since the first SHSU alumni event was played at Joseph Pritchett Field in 1931, the Bearkats stand 38-40-1 in their homecoming games.

The Kats’ record at Bowers in homecoming contests is 18-9. Sam Houston has won each of its last four homecoming games. Lamar is Sam Houston homecoming opponent for the first time since 1984 (when the Kats won 27-11). Sam Houston is 3-1 against the Cardinals in homecoming games in Huntsville.

Saturday’s contest is the league opener for two-time defending Southland champion Sam Houston State. The Bearkats stand 10-15-1 in conference openers in their 26 years in the Southland. Sam Houston is 5-8 in league opners at Bowers.

Sam Houston is seeking to become only the fifth team in Southland Conference history to earn league championships three years in a row. Lamar (1964-65-66), Arkansas State (1968-69-70), Louisiana Tech (1971-72-73-74) and McNeese (2001-02-03) are the only teams to pull off the feat in the Southland’s 50 years of football. SHSU won in 2011 title with a 7-0 record and in 2012 with a 6-1 slate. The Bearkats have five Southland titles overall in their 26 years in the legue. SHSU also won championships in 1991, 2001 and 2004.

The Kats own a 18-game home winning streak at Bowers Stadium, the longest in school history and, currently, in FCS. The streak started with a win over Texas State after losing to McNeese in 2010. Sam Houston’s 18-game streak now stands as the 18th longest in FCS history. Georgia Southern holds the record with 39 consecutive home wins from 1997 to 2001. Bowers Stadium opened in 1986. The Bearkats won their first 13 games in the facility and now hold a 102-42-1 record at Bowers. Sam Houston has posted unbeaten seasons at home in 1986, 1987, 1990, 1992, 2001, 2004, 2011 and 2012.

Sam Houston State is one of only eight football programs to appear in consecutive NCAA Division I Football Championship Games. The list of seven other universities reaching the finals in back-to-back seasons during the tournament’s 34-year history includes Eastern Kentucky, Georgia Southern, Youngstown State, Marshall, Montana, Appalachian State and North Dakota State.

The Bearkats stand No. 2 in the current 2013 Sports Network and No. 3 in the NCAA Coaches poll. Sam Houston has finished each of the past two seasons No. 2 in the final rankings in both polls. The Bearkats have been ranked among the FCS top 25 for 30 consecutive weeks. The team debuted in the national poll Sept. 9, 2011. During an 11-0 regular season in 2011, the Kats rose to No. 1 at the end of the regular season. SHSU has ranked among the FCS top 10 for 26 consecutive polls.

Walter Payton Award candidate Timothy Flanders has earned league offensive honors twice this season. His first award came after scoring three touchdowns and rushing for 170 yards against Texas A&M. Flanders’ total was the most by any player against A&M in 42 games (since Colt McCoy of Texas in 2009). Flanders was both Southland and FCS national player of the week after gained 280 yards on 32 carries in the victory over No. 2 Eastern Washington.

Linebacker Tanner Brock received the league’s weekly defensive honor after leading the team in tackles and posting two sacks in the victory over Texas Southern.

Cornerback De’Antrey Loche was Southland defensive player of the week after returning an interception 42 yards for a touchdown to put Sam Houston ahead to stay in the EWU victory.

Sam Houston State leads FCS national statistics in both rushing yards per game (331.8) and scoring (51.6 points). The Bearkats stand No. 14 in FCS total offense (484.8) and No. 3 in pass efficiency (179.21).

All-America running back, Walter Payton Award candidate and two-time Southland "Player of the Year" Timothy Flanders ranks third in FCS football in total rushing yards with 766 in five games this year. He stands No. 2 in FCS in rushing yards per game (153.2).

The Midwest City, Okla., product is the first Southland Conference running back to gain 5,000 rushing yards. He holds 31 Sam Houston school records and eight Southland Conference marks. He has rushed 852 times for 5,000 yards and 61 touchdowns in his career.

Flanders also owns the league’s career marks for rushing TDs (61), total touchdowns (65) and points (390). He stands as the FCS active career rushing leader and has posted 29 100-yard rushing performances during his Sam Houston career.

An amazing aspect of Flanders’ career marks is the large amount of games where he has given way to his backups with the contest’s outcome already in hand. Flanders has not had a carry in the final quarter in 14 of the Kats’ last 34 games. In his three-year career, he has sat for a total of 24 quarters, the equivalent of six games.

When Flanders has played in the fourth quarter of close games, he has been very effective. His impressive final period performances in victories include 9-for-67 at New Mexico, 10-for-60 vs. Stony Brook and 9-for-82 in the semifinals with Montana in 2011. In the 2012 semis at Eastern Washington, Flanders was 10-for-69 in the fourth.

In the 2013 victory over EWU, Flanders carried 13 times for 82 yards including four first downs and a touchdown.

Brian Bell is Sam Houston’s all-time winningest quarterback, leading SHSU to 33 victories in 43 starts since 2010. The senior from China Spring is the program’s all-time leader in passing (6,904 yards) and total offense (7,942 yards). Bell’s 64 career touchdown passes also is an SHSU school mark and stands as the 8th highest total in Southland annals.

Bell also is only the second quarterback in school history to gain 1,000 career yards rushing. The first was David Kubiak (1,528 in 1967-70). Bell has rushed for 1,038 to become the 32nd member of the SHSU 1,000-yard rushing club. He has 18 rushing TDs to his credit.

Bell is 96 yards away from becoming the 12th quarterback in Southland Conference history to throw for 7,000 or more career yards.

Richard Sincere, the senior wide receiver who also runs the "Wild Bearkat" and returns kicks for SHSU, is yards the eighth Sam Houston player to roll up 3,000 or more all-purpose yards. His combined career total for rushing, receiving and returns is 3,072.

The Galveston Ball product is one of only two Bearkats to gain more than 1,000 yards in a career both rushing and receiving. He has totaled 2,056 rushing yards and 1,002 receiving. Tony January gained 2,376 yards rushing and 1,328 yards receiving in 1978-82.

Torrance Williams became the 22nd member of the 1,000-yard career receiving club at Sam Houston Saturday. His four-year total now stands at 73 catches for 1,097 yards and 12 touchdowns. The speedy Waco Connally product has totaled 1,880 career all-purpose yards.

Williams leads the Southland Conference in punt returns (20.0 average) and ranks fourth in pass receiving. He has 11 returns for 111 yards and has caught 17 passes for 354 yards and seven TDs.

Wide receiver Chance Nelson became a deep threat for the Kats as a freshman in 2012 after transferring from Texas A&M. He caught 35 passes for 671 yards and nine TDs last year including a 70-yard strike against Southeastern Louisiana and a 61-yard TD at Texas Southern. This season Nelson has caught seven passes for111 yards, an average of 16.5 yards per reception. He has scored one touchdown.

The biggest offensive question mark coming into the 2013 season was in the offensive line where sophomore Donald Jackson III and senior Matt Boyles were the only returning veterans with starting experience. The young line has surrendered only two sacks in five games and paving the way for an offense that is averaging 484.8 yards per contest to rank No. 12 in FCS national statistics.

Sam Houston’s defense has ranked as one of the best in FCS the past two years, leading the nation in rushing defense in 2011 and ranking 16th nationally in turnover margin last year. But the Bearkats had to replace six All-Southland performers including the league’s Defensive Player of the Year Darnell Taylor. The defense has responded to the challenge, producing nine turnovers in four games (six interceptions and three fumble recoveries).

Three seniors are piling up the tackles for the Bearkats. Tanner Brock, a transfer from TCU, leads the defense with 38 stops including two quarterback sacks. Eric Fieilo has 35 tackles including three for losses. He picked off a Johnny Manziel pass for an interception in the Texas A&M game. Jesse Beauchamp was the team’s second-leading tackler in 2012 with 94 stops. He has 13 tackles to his credit this year.

Cornerback Bookie Sneed is the Bearkats’ lone returning starter in the secondary. Sneed picked off four interceptions last year and eight in his career. He is tied for eighth in career interceptions at SHSU. He holds a school record with his 92-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter of the 2012 SFA victory. The play broke a mark that had stood since 1968.

Andrew Weaver was selected to the Associated Press FCS All-America third team in 2012. He was an All-Southland second team honoree as well. Weaver had two sacks at Montana State and one in the NCAA title game. In 2011, he returned an interception for 23 yards in the SFA win. This season the transfer from Texas A&M leads the Bearkats with four sacks.


Nine All-Southland Conference performers return from the 2012 squad including first team selections running back Timothy Flanders and wide receiver/wildkat back Richard Sincere. Second team all-conference Kats returning include quarterback Brian Bell, defensive linemen Gary Lorance and Andrew Weaver and defensive back Bookie Sneed. Receiving All-Southland honorable mention in 2012 were running back Keshawn Hill, offensive linemen Donald Jackson, defensive lineman Jarrett Brown and linebacker Jesse Beauchamp.

Tickets of each of the final three regular season home games at Bowers Stadium in 2013 plus the 88th "Battle of the Piney Woods" at Reliant Stadium Nov. 2 are available now online at www.gobearkats.com and at the SHSU athletic ticket office. The ticket office telephone is (936) 294-1729. Located in the Ron Mafrige Field House in the south end zone of Bowers Stadium, the ticket office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.