HUNTSVILLE – It took everything Sam Houston State had on Saturday night. They had just enough.
The ninth-ranked Bearkats stretched their win streak at Bowers Stadium to 15 straight, using a go-ahead, 4-play, 96-yard drive, capped by a one-yard rush from Corey Avery with 1:04 remaining in the fourth quarter to defeat Northwestern State, 40-36.
Sam Houston (5-1, 3-1 Southland) trailed the entire game until the winning drive. It marked the first time the squad had trailed at home entering the fourth quarter and won since Oct. 31, 2009 against Northwestern State (1-5, 1-3).
Jeremiah Briscoe and Davion Davis both cemented their names in Sam Houston football lore. Davis became the third Bearkat receiver and fifth Southland player to catch four touchdowns in a single game. Meanwhile, Briscoe’s career-high 509 passing yards are the second-highest mark by a Bearkat quarterback.
Briscoe finished 33-for-57 through the air, eight of which were completed to Davis who finished with 139 yards, pushing him over 2,000 career receiving yards. Nathan Stewart brought in eight catches for 247 yards – ranking second in team history while trailing only his 268 a season ago against McNeese.
WHAT’S IN A COMEBACK
Sam Houston found itself on the wrong side of the scoring early as the Demons took a 17-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Kats were unable to slow down quarterback Clay Holgorsen who completed 7-of-12 passes for a pair of scores in the opening frame.
NSU extended its advantage to 24-7 with 6:55 to play in the first half after its defense stopped the Kats on a fourth-and-three at the Demons’ 21-yard line. The next play, Jared West rushed for 62 yards to the Sam Houston 14-yard line, setting up touchdown pass from wide receiver Bobby Chan-Chan to Lucas Morgan.
Two consecutive Sam Houston touchdowns trimmed the deficit to three as Briscoe found Davis for a 25-yard strike to cap a 5-play, 64-yard drive with 5:05 in the second quarter. On its next possession, Briscoe connected with Stewart for 54 yards, helping set up a 7-yard toss to Davis with 2:45 left in the half.
The Demons added a field goal on the final play of the second quarter and stopped the Bearkats on their first drive of the third quarter. After punter Cameron Hearn downed a punt at the NSU 1-yard line, the Demons’ Chris Jones took a 90-yard scamper to the house, extending the lead to 33-21.
Sam Houston went to work, using an 8-play, 51-yard drive capped by an 11-yard pass from Briscoe to Davis, bringing the deficit within five at 33-28. The Demons grabbed a field goal before the end of the third to set the stage for the fourth-quarter rally.
The Bearkat defense clamped down, forcing a pair of three-and-outs and with under 10 minutes remaining, Briscoe found Davis down the right sideline, who made a pair of defenders miss before taking it 70 yards for the touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Kats down 36-34.
Looking to wind the clock down, NSU moved the ball into Sam Houston territory; however, Chris Stewart and P.J. Hall combined for the sack of J.D. Almond on third-and-seven and the Kats got the ball back following the punt at their own four-yard line with 2:16 left.
An offsides penalty and 13-yard rush from Corey Avery got the ball out to the Sam Houston 22-yard line but the following play provided the biggest boost as Briscoe found Stewart down the left side. The wideout wove his way through the defense for 64 yards down to the Demons’ 14-yard line.
The Kats once again turned to Avery, who picked up a crucial third-and-one with four yards to the NSU 1-yard line and punched it in one play later as the Kats took their first lead at 40-36 with 1:04 left.
Sam Houston trailed at the half at home for the first time since Nov. 28, 2015 in the first round of the playoffs against Southern Utah. It also marked the first time in Southland Conference play the squad had been down since Sept. 19 of the same season against Lamar.
The Bearkats receiving duo of Davion Davis and Nathan Stewart climbed higher up Bearkat record books with a stellar showing Saturday night. Davis’ became the seventh Bearkat to surpass 2,000 yards receiving while moving into sixth in career receiving. Stewart, meanwhile, moved into the top 10 all-time at SHSU in receiving, giving the Kats three players on the current roster ranking in the top 10.
Head coach K.C. Keeler on Northwestern State game plan…
“We didn’t see them run counter previous games and they took advantage on how aggressive we are up the field. We had to make some changes and play the run first and get the pass rush later. They ran bootleg and pass deep down the field and the counter run game for them early on and once we started taking away the run and then they started struggling.”
Head coach K.C. Keeler on playing without Yedidiah Louis…
“Great the thing with Davion is you can put him anywhere, but having the Player of Year in the Southland not available really hurts you. Once we decided on the conscience effort that we are going to get him healthy. The plan is that we are going to stick on continuing to try to get him healthy and get him back. It hurts us but we have great depth and Coree Compton came in big for us in the absence of Yedi.”
Head coach K.C. Keeler on the penalties and execution today…
“It’s not our talent but we have not executed as well as we need to and the penalties have killed us and that is 3 straight weeks in a row where we were in triple digits in penalties. We must get that fixed. It’s the little things that happen to create the penalties. We have to be smarter. I don’t what it is but we have to fix it. It is on us and we cannot point our fingers at other people. If we don’t fix the penalties we are going to be talking about a loss next week.”
Head coach K.C. Keeler on PJ Hall’s impact on the game…
“It is one of those deals where he gets held literally almost every play and I think it is a man against boys and they let the boys get away with a lot of things. He is out there fighting ever play and he makes everyone around him better. I have a lot of faith in that defensive line and I thought they did a really excellent job neutralizing the aggressiveness and once we settled down I thought we played some pretty good defense.”
Jeremiah Briscoe on the emotion of the game…
“It was an emotional game. That was one of those games you’ll think about the rest of your life. Emotion brings the best out of people and I think that we showed that tonight.”
Jeremiah Briscoe on the huddle on the last drive…
“I told them that this was a statement drive and we needed to make a statement.”
Davion Davis on having a hurt ankle and still managing to get two touchdowns afterwards…
“It was just me playing ball honestly. Everyone was fighting and we didn’t give up at all, giving it our best effort whenever I can all the time.”