Saturday, Oct. 7 • Houston, Texas • 1:00 p.m. • NRG Stadium (72,200)
No. 9 Sam Houston State (3-1, 1-1 SLC) vs Stephen F. Austin (2-3, 2-1 SLC)
Live Stats • ESPN3 • @BearkatsFB on Twitter • Complete SHSU Game Notes
HUNTSVILLE – Coach K.C. Keeler knows when rivalry games are on the schedule, records get thrown out the window.
Such is the case this weekend when the No. 9 Sam Houston State Bearkats head to NRG Stadium to take on Stephen F. Austin in the 92nd edition of the Battle of the Piney Woods presented by H-E-B on Saturday.
Saturday’s game will be aired on ESPN3 with availability on mobile devices through the WatchESPN app. Randy McIlvoy will have the call from Houston with Shea Walker on analysis. Meanwhile, Tatum Everett will have all of the coverage from the sidelines.
Fans can also listen in on KSAM 101.7 FM with Kooter Roberson and E.P. Garth on the call and Brian Adams on the sidelines. Updates can also be found by following @BearaktsFB on Twitter.
The Bearkats fell to No. 9 in the STATS FCS national rankings this week following its 41-30 loss at Central Arkansas on Saturday, already the third game this season for Sam Houston against a ranked opponent. Still, with seven games left in the regular season, the Kats have plenty of opportunities to add to their resume.
Last season the Kats had no issues putting the game out of reach, scoring 35 points in 10 minutes of game time on their way to a 63-28 win. Jeremiah Briscoe put together one of the great performances in Piney Woods history that day, completing 25 of 33 passes for 438 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns – in just three quarters of work. Much of that came in connection with then freshman Nathan Stewart, who had his breakout game as a Bearkat with five catches for 183 yards and a pair of scores.
Once again, the Kats come in once again with one of the most potent offenses in the nation, ranking among the top five in the country in both total offense and scoring. But Sam Houston’s defense has also gotten a boost from the addition of senior defensive lineman PJ Hall as the Kats have averaged 387 yards allowed in the two games since his return after averaging 552 yards per game in the first two games of the season without him.
Stephen F. Austin has been up and down in its first five games of the year, opening up the season with defeats to SMU and Southern Utah before opening up Southland play with wins over UIW and Abilene Christian. But that was followed up with a 35-0 defeat to McNeese on Saturday in Nacogdoches where the ‘Jacks were outgained on the ground 342-61.
In fact, the ‘Jacks have allowed 222 yards per game on the ground to opponents this season while averaging less than 300 yards per game of total offense and 17.0 points per game themselves. Quarterback Jake Blumrick got the start against McNeese and is averaging 101.8 yards per game through the air, while no SFA back is averaging more than Jamall Shaw’s 34.6 yards per game rushing.
The Bearkats vs Lumberjacks series dates back to 1923. Sam Houston holds a 54-35-2 edge in the series with a pair of ties. The Kats have won six straight, tying the longest win streak in the series which was last done by Sam Houston between 1937-1946. The matchup has been played at NRG Stadium each of the past seven years with the crowds growing larger each season. Sam Houston defeated Stephen F. Austin 63-28 on Oct. 1 last year before a record crowd of 27,411 fans at NRG Stadium.
Since 2007, the winner of the Battle of the Piney Woods has earned a 21-pound solid cedar trophy that displays replica pistols from Texas’ frontier past. The logos from both universities are engraved on the handle of the pistols above name plates that will display the outcomes of the contest for the next two decades.
Each of the past eight game winners has gone on to advance to the NCAA postseason playoffs. Six of the last eight years, the winner of the rivalry game has emerged as champion of the Southland Conference. Since 1986, one team has come into the Piney Woods game in the FCS top 25 and the other not ranked 16 times. Six of those games, the unranked team won.
WITH A BEARKAT WIN ...
- K.C. Keeler would win his 212th career game. He is currently 18th all-time among FCS head coaches, one win behind Wofford’s Mike Ayers. One spot ahead of Ayers on the all-time list is former SHSU head coach Ron Randleman, who sits 16th with 218 career wins.
- Sam Houston would win its seventh straight Battle of the Piney Woods, setting a new record for the longest win streak by either team in the history of the series. The current 6-game win streak over the ‘Jacks is the second longest active win streak by the Kats over any current Southland Conference foe, with only their 11-game win streak over Nicholls being longer.
- Sam Houston would win its 72nd game since the beginning of the 2011 season. The Kats and North Dakota State are the only two teams in the FCS with 70 victories since the beginning of the 2011 campaign.
- The Kats would win their 10th consecutive game played in the city of Houston. That current streak dates back to the 2010 Battle of the Piney Woods and includes six wins over SFA at NRG Stadium, two wins at HBU and a win over Texas Southern at BBVA Compass Stadium.
LEFTOVER KATNIP FROM 41-30 LOSS AT CENTRAL ARKANSAS ...
- The loss to UCA snapped a 3-game win streak for the Bearkats over the Bears. It also snapped a 12-game winning streak in SLC play for Sam Houston that dated back to a 27-10 loss at McNeese in 2015.
- Jeremiah Briscoe threw for 303 yards and 3 TDs against UCA, giving him his 16th 300-yard passing game of his career. The 3 touchdown throws also gave him 84 for his career, tying him with former Bearkat QB Brian Bell for the career record at SHSU.
- The Kats got a big game from sophomore wide receiver Nathan Stewart as he finished with 8 catches for 164 yards and three scores, tying his career high in touchdown catches for a single game. He now has 18 touchdown catches in his career in just 17 games played and leads the SLC in receiving with 127.0 yards per game.
- Corey Avery rushed for 134 yards, becoming the Bearkats’ first 100-yard rusher on the season. It was the 9th 100-yard rushing game of his career and his first since going for 212 yards in Sam’s 2016 win at UIW.
- The Bearkat defense did not force a turnover against the Bears on Saturday, making the game the first this season Sam has not forced at least one turnover. In fact, it snapped a streak of 15 consecutive games the Bearkats have not had at least one takeaway, dating back to the 2016 season opener against Oklahoma Panhandle State.
- The teams combined for 29 penalties and 301 yards in the game with 12 penalties and 135 yards going against the Kats. The 12 penalties are the most since SHSU committed 13 in the 2015 Battle of the Piney Woods, and the 135 penalty yards were the most since SHSU was penalized 16 times for 159 in the 2014 season opener against Eastern Washington.