Saturday, Sept. 8 • Huntsville • 6:05 p.m. • Bowers Stadium (12,975)
No. 4 Sam Houston State (0-0, 0-0 SLC) vs Prairie View (1-1, 0-0 SWAC)
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HUNTSVILLE – The No. 4 Sam Houston State Bearkats will kick off the 2018 season on Saturday night when they host the Prairie View Panthers at Bowers Stadium in the Orange Out 2018 game sponsored by KSAM.
The game will be aired on ESPN+ with Randy McIlvoy and Shea Walker on the call and Matt Pedersen patrolling the sidelines. Fans can also listen on KSAM 101.7 FM with Kooter Roberson, E.P. Garth and Brian Adams bringing the action over the airwaves.
Saturday kicks off the first of two home non-conference games for the Kats before Southland Conference play begins on September 22 at Nicholls. Meanwhile, the Panthers come in already with two games under their belt, including a last-second loss in the opening week at Rice. They squared up their record on Sunday in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge, bettering North Carolina Central by a 40-24 margin in Atlanta, Ga.
Sam Houston will be looking to make it two wins in a row over the Panthers after taking a 44-31 win over the Panthers last year at Blackshear Field. This will only be the third time the teams have met on the football field with Prairie View winning the only other matchup in Huntsville in 1985, making this the Panthers’ first trip to Bowers Stadium.
- Sam Houston is 1 of just 3 teams in the FCS, along with North Dakota State and New Hampshire, to reach the FCS playoffs each season since 2011. In that time the Kats have posted an impressive 16-7 playoff mark, trailing only the Bison in playoff wins during that span. Sam Houston has reached at least the semifinals in 5 of those 7 seasons, including back-to-back trips to the FCS championship game in both 2011 and 2012.
- With its 7-0 record at home in 2017, Sam Houston extended its win streak at Bowers Stadium to 20 games, setting a new mark for the second longest home win streak in school history. Entering 2018, the streak is the longest current streak in the FCS with the last loss coming to Lamar on Sept. 19, 2015 by a 49-46 score. Since the start of 2011, the Kats have been nearly perfect on the Bowers Stadium turf, having won 47 of their last 49 games in front of their home crowd.
- The Kats opened up the 2018 season ranked No. 4 in the preseason STATS FCS poll, keeping a trend going of being ranked in every STATS FCS poll since K.C. Keeler took over the program in 2014. Additionally, the last poll without the Kats ranked inside the top 10 was on Nov. 9, 2015.
- Offense has not been a problem under K.C. Keeler. In 57 games since 2014, the Kats have scored 30 or more points 46 times, going 42-4 in those games. They have reached the 40-point mark 33 times, going 31-2 in those games. They have exceeded the 50-point plateau at Bowers Stadium 12 times under Keeler and 15 times overall.
- The Kats are 19-11 all-time in the FCS playoffs and own the country’s third-best winning percentage (.633) in the playoffs. The 2017 season was SHSU’s seventh straight appearance in the FCS playoffs and 11th overall.
- With the Bearkats advancing with their second-round win over South Dakota in the 2017 playoffs, head coach K.C. Keeler extended his career streak to 15 straight playoff appearances with at least 1 win. A Keeler-coached squad has never lost its playoff opener in his career and his Sam Houston teams are now 4-0 in playoff openers. Each of his 4 Delaware playoff teams won their playoff opener, as did all 7 of his playoff teams at Rowan.
- The Kats surpassed the 600-yard mark of total offense seven times in 2017, setting a new program record for the most 600-yard games in program history. Of the 21 total times it’s happened in school history, 16 times have come since Keeler took over for the 2014 season.
- As a true freshman, cornerback Zyon McCollum picked off 3 passes in 2017, including a pair in the FCS playoffs. He became the first Bearkat freshman with 3 INTs in a season since Mark Hughes had 4 during his redshirt freshman season in 2001. McCollum was the first Bearkat true freshman to do so since Mike Nelms had 5 in 1973. He is a preseason all-SLC second team choice for 2018.
- McCollum started 10 games in 2017 but was not the only true freshman cornerback to see significant time in 2017 for the Kats. Jaylen Thomas also started 12 games in 2017 as a true freshman, eventually earning honorable mention all-league honors. Between them, there were eight games last season that saw SHSU start the true freshman duo at cornerback.
- K.C. Keeler has won 9 playoff games with the Bearkats. Sam’s second-round win over South Dakota was his 8th, breaking a tie with Willie Fritz for the most playoff victories as the most ever by a Bearkat head coach.
- The Sam Houston State offensive line returns 4 of 5 starters for 2018, including all-America left tackle Mitchell Watanabe. In addition to helping the Kats lead all of the FCS in total offense for the third straight season, the Bearkat offensive line allowed just 16 sacks in 610 dropbacks over the course of the 14-game season in 2017. That was just one sack for every 38.1 dropbacks for the year.
- SHSU just missed out on becoming the fourth team in FCS history with three 1,000-yard receivers on its roster, but bring back two of their big three from a year ago. Davion Davis and Nathan Stewart combined to top all of FCS with 2,854 yards as a duo and will be looking to continue their assault on the SHSU and Southland record books this fall.
- The Kats said farewell to its crop of seniors after 2017, a group that put together a stellar run. As a class it won 46 games in its tenure while qualifying for the FCS Playoffs each year. The 46 wins since 2014 are the most ever by a 4-year senior class in SHSU history.
- The Kats have been the top offense in all of the FCS each of the past 3 years, but for the third straight season in 2018 the Kats will have a new voice calling the plays. Ryan Carty joins Sam Houston as offensive coordinator after an extensive stay at New Hampshire, becoming the third offensive coordinator for SHSU in as many years.
WITH A BEARKAT WIN …
- K.C. Keeler would win his 221st career game. He is currently 16th all-time among FCS head coaches, 2 wins ahead of former Wofford coach Mike Ayers and former SHSU coach Ron Randleman. Next up on the list is former Wagner head coach Walt Hameline who is 15th with 223 wins from 1981-2014.
- Sam Houston would pick up its fifth straight win in a season opener played at home. The last time the Kats lost a season opener played at Bowers Stadium was in 2009 vs Western Illinois.
- The Kats would move to 18-7 all-time against opponents out of the SWAC and 2-1 all-time against Prairie View.
- Sam Houston would run its home win streak to 21 games in a row. The last SHSU home loss came vs Lamar by a 49-46 score on Sept. 19, 2015. Sam Houston is approaching its all-time record win streak of 23 games that stretched from 2010 to 2014, while the current 20-game win streak is the longest current streak in all of FCS. Since 2011, Sam Houston is 47-2 in 49 games at home.