ABILENE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats scored 24 unanswered points to erase a 10-0 deficit, and put the defensive clamps on Abilene Christian in the second half, taking down the Wildcats 24-10 on Saturday at Wildcat Stadium.
With the win, and Southeastern Louisiana’s win over Central Arkansas, the Kats (6-4, 5-2 SLC) are in a four-way tie for first place in the Southland Conference with UCA, SLU and Nicholls with just two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Ife Adeyi turned in a huge game with eight catches for 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns with each coming in a quick stretch of the second quarter that gave the Bearkats the lead. ACU (5-5, 4-4 SLC) had built up a 10-0 lead in the opening half, but Will Lockett picked off ACU quarterback Luke Anthony deep in Bearkat territory in the second quarter and from there the Wildcats struggled to get anything going offensively, finishing with just 127 yards of total offense in the rest of the way.
The game also served as the return of Bearkat quarterback Eric Schmid who had missed each of the past four games with an injury. He finished with 16 completions on 33 attempts for 260 yards and a touchdown.
Sam Houston had just 365 yards of offense itself, including just 57 on the ground, but had to work around 13 penalties for 155 yards in the game.
The Bearkat defense, who leads the nation in tackles for loss, added a dozen TFLs to its total and forced three turnovers for the game. Lockett and Jaylen Thomas each totaled eight tackles for the game, while Royce See had seven stops to go with 3.5 TFLs and a forced fumble. Lockett and Evrin Hawkins each had interceptions, while Jalan Mayes recovered a fumble.
HOW IT HAPPENED
ACU was stopped on three plays on its first drive, but took advantage of good field position and two good runs from Sema’J Davis to get points on the board first on a 24-yard field goal by Blair Zepeda.
One drive later the Wildcats took advantage of three 15-yard penalties by the Bearkat defense to go 97 yards on 14 plays, using 6:50 off the clock to up their lead to 10-0. They capped it off when quarterback Anthony found running back Tracy James for a 14-yard touchdown pass, the first touchdown the Bearkat defense had allowed in the first half of a game since its win over SFA.
ACU was poised to pad its lead even further, penetrating the Bearkat red zone on its next drive before Lockett put an abrupt stop to it by picking off Anthony inside the Bearkat 5-yard line. The Kats then used a pair of big plays to immediately surge back into the game as Schmid found Adeyi for a 39-yard pass and one play later the Kats got creative as Noah Smith connected with Adeyi for a 36-yard score, the second time this season that connection has worked for an SHSU touchdown.
The defense followed with a quick 3-and-out and the quick-strike offense struck again as Schmid found Adeyi again, this time for a 57-yard touchdown that put SHSU in front 14-10, a lead that the Kats took into the half. ACU threatened to put points on the board again, late in the half, but Evrin Hawkins picked off Anthony on a 4th-and-3 pass play to keep the Kats in front.
KJ Gray blew up a punt return early in the third quarter, forcing a fumble that Jalan Mayes fell on inside the ACU 10-yard line. That set up a 22-yard field goal by Hunter Pinegar and one drive later the Kats found the end zone again when Donovan Williams dove into the end zone from three yards out to cap a 53-yard drive and push the lead to 24-10.
The Kats will now return home for a pair of games at Bowers Stadium to close out the 2019 regular season, beginning Saturday vs Northwestern State. Kickoff is set for noon and will be aired on ESPN+.