HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats had little time to revel in its season-opening win over No. 7 Richmond, as preparation as quickly turned to its nationally-televised game on Thursday at Prairie View.
Kickoff is officially set for 6:32 p.m. CT in Prairie View and will be aired live on ESPNU. Eric Clemons will have the call of the broadcast, while Jay Walker will have analysis.
Fans can also listen along on KSAM 101.7 with Kooter Roberson on the call, E.P. Garth on analysis and Brian Adams on the sideline. Live stats will also be available and fans can get live updates by following @BearkatsFB on Twitter.
The game will pit two of the most potent offenses in the FCS with the Kats leading the nation in scoring in 2016 and Prairie View ranking first in 2015. Prairie View was initially supposed to open up its season against SWAC rival Texas Southern, but has since moved to Thanksgiving Weekend at BBVA Compass Stadium.
FOR THE FANS
Due to the devastation to the Houston and surrounding areas, officials at Prairie View are instituting a #HoustonStrong theme to Thursday’s game. Complimentary tickets to the game will be offered to first responders, Texas teachers and all elementary, middle school and high school students with a valid. ID. General admission tickets to the game will be $15. For more information on the game’s #HoustonStrong initiative, click HERE.
FOR THOSE STILL IN HUNTSVILLE
For fans unable to attend the game at Prairie View, Bearkat Athletics will host a watch party at Potato Shack in Huntsville. All fans are encouraged to attend and enjoy the game with family and friends. Door prizes will be given out to qualified winners.
THE SERIES Even with the school’s campuses being just 70 miles apart, Thursday will mark only the second time Sam Houston has ever faced Prairie View on the gridiron, and the first time as a Division I team. The only other meeting came in 1985 when the Bearkats could not overcome four turnovers in a 14-9 loss in Huntsville. It was one of just three losses on the year for the Kats, who would claim a share of the Gulf Star Conference championship that season.
- Sam Houston is one of just two teams in the FCS, along with North Dakota State and New Hampshire, to reach the FCS playoffs each of the last six seasons. In that time the Kats have posted an impressive 14-6 mark, trailing only the Bison in playoff wins during that span. Sam Houston has reached at least the quarterfinals in four of those six seasons, including back-to-back trips to the FCS championship game in both 2011 and 2012.
- The Bearkats reached the double-digit plateau for the third straight season and fifth of the last six seasons in 2016. In its 101-year history, Sam Houston has won at least 10 games eight times (1956, 2001, 2004, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016).
- The Kats are 17-10 all-time in the FCS playoffs and own the country’s third-best winning percentage (.629) in the playoffs. Last season Sam Houston made its sixth straight appearance in the FCS playoffs and 10th overall.
- With its win over Richmond on Friday the Bearkats secured the first season-opening victory over a ranked opponent in school history. It made Sam Houston 3-1 against current CAA schools and was the 16th victory all-time against a team ranked in the national top-10.
- Points have not been a problem under head coach K.C. Keeler for the Bearkats. In 45 games since he took over in 2014, the Kats have scored 30 or more points on 36 occasions, going 33-3 in those games. In all, Sam Houston has scored no less than 34 points in each of its last 26 victories.
WITH A BEARKAT WIN ...
- K.C. Keeler would win his 210th career game. He is currently in a tie with Wofford’s Mike Ayers for 17th in all-time wins among FCS head coaches. Next on the all-time list is former SHSU head coach Ron Randleman, who sits 16th with 218 career wins.
- Sam Houston would win its 200th game since joining the Division I ranks and the Southland Conference for the 1986 season.
- Sam Houston would win its 70th game since the beginning of the 2011 season. They would join North Dakota State as the only two teams in the FCS with 70 victories since the beginning of the 2011 campaign.
- Sam Houston would win its eighth consecutive game against a SWAC opponent. The Kats are currently 16-7 all-time against SWAC opponents and are making just their fourth trip to a SWAC stadium. Their last loss to a SWAC team came against Texas Southern in 1996, while the only road loss came in 1993 to Steve McNair’s Alcorn State squad.
KATS SEEKING BACK-TO-BACK SOUTHLAND CROWNS
Last season Sam Houston ran the table on its way to winning the outright Southland Conference title with a perfect 9-0 mark. The Kats will be looking to win back-to-back league crowns in 2017 for the first time since 2011 and 2012, but have never won consecutive outright titles. The last team to win two straight outright SLC crowns was McNeese in 2006 and 2007.
STAYING AT THE TOP
The 2016 season was the first time in school history the Bearkats not only started the year ranked in the top 5 of the national polls, but also stayed there throughout the year. Sam Houston opened up the season as the No. 2 team in the STATS FCS poll and eventually rose to No. 1 midway through the year before finishing ranked No. 5 in the final poll. Since K.C. Keeler took over the program, the Bearkats have been inside the top 25 polls each time a poll has been released, while the last poll without the Kats in the top 10 was on Nov. 9, 2015.
BRISCOE, PRICE TAKE SLC WEEKLY HONORS AFTER OPENER
The Kats claimed plenty of honors last season, but will have to find more room on the trophy case if Week 1 is any indication. Quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe and safety Josh Price were named the league’s offensive and defensive players of the week on Monday. Briscoe earned his after throwing for 411 yards and accounting for five scores, while Price made his Bearkat debut with a pair of red zone interceptions.
That as the mantra for the Bearkat offense in 2016, and it fit, considering how quickly the Kats would strike once getting the ball. Sam Houston scored 89 offensive touchdowns a year ago, with 54 of those drives taking up less than 2 minutes on the game clock.
That carried over into its 2017 opener against Richmond with 4 of their 5 touchdown drives taking up less than 2 minutes, while the other touchdown drive took just 2:14.
THRICE AS NICE
With an offense as prolific as the Kats’ was in 2016, it’s no surprise that the ball was spread around. Sam Houston boasted a pair of receivers - Yedidiah Louis (1,152) and Nathan Stewart (1,004) - who surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in 2016. Davion Davis finished just 40 yards of the mark, keeping the Kats just short of joining the 2013 and 2014 Fordham squads as the only teams in FCS history to sport three 1,000-yard receivers on the same roster in the same year. Eastern Washington managed to pull off the feat in 2016, so should the Kats do it in 2017, they would now be the fourth FCS team in history to do so.
LEAD FROM THE FRONT
The 2016 season did not end the way the Bearkats thought it would in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs, but going into the game against eventual national champion James Madison, the Kats had been absolutely dominant. Sam Houston did not trail in a game until its 10th game of the season at Northwestern State less than 5 minutes into the first quarter. Prior to its loss at JMU, Sam Houston had only surrendered a lead at any point on three occasions and its 21-21 tie early in the third quarter of its second-round win over Chattanooga was the first time Sam Houston had not held the lead in the second half at any point in the year.
In fact, prior to JMU, Sam had only been tied for 65 minutes and 42 seconds of the 720 total minutes played, including 56 minutes and 36 seconds of that span being a 0-0 tie. That is another trend that carried over to its win over Richmond as Sam Houston never trailed and did not hold the lead against Richmond for 6:35 of the game.
LOUIS PURSUING RECEIVING RECORDS
In the Kats’ playoff win vs Chattanooga in 2016 wide receiver Yedidiah Louis moved past Matt Dominguez for the all-time Sam Houston mark in career receptions and stretched that out to 224 with 6 snags against Richmond. Against the Spiders he became just the third player in Southland Conference history to reach 3,000 yards receiving for a career and now he needs 242 more yards to pass Dominguez for both the SHSU and SLC record for career receiving yards. He also needs just six more catches to pass Southeastern Louisiana’s Simmie Yarborough’s career Southland mark of 229 career receptions.
PROTECTION A KEY FOR THE KATS
Sam Houston touted one of the top offensive lines in 2016 and returns two key pieces to it for 2017 in preseason all-SLC tackle Mitchell Watanabe and senior guard Tyler Tezeno, who was chosen as a preseason third team all-American by STATS FCS. Sam Houston allowed just 17 sacks in 13 games last year, but only 8 in 11 regular-season games. The new-look line was outstanding in the 2017 opener against Richmond, paving the way for 272 yards on the ground, while the only Spider sack of the game was recorded on an unforced fumble by Briscoe on the game’s opening drive.
PRICE IS RIGHT
The Sam Houston coaching staff quickly knew they had something special in safety Josh Price when he joined the team prior to the 2016 season. Price played two years at Southern Nazarene to open his collegiate career, but sat out the last two seasons, including the 2016 season due to NCAA transfer regulations. With one year of eligibility remaining, he looks poised to make the most of his final collegiate season. Price had 8 stops and picked off a pair of passes against Richmond, both ending Richmond drives in the red zone, including a game-clinching pick with 2:03 to play with the Spiders driving inside the SHSU 10-yard line. That effort won him SLC Defensive Player of the Week honors, while his 2 interceptions made him the first Bearkat with multiple picks in a game since Mikell Everette had 2 against Central Arkansas in 2015 - a span of 19 games.
HONSHTEIN GIVES KATS ADDED DIMENSION
Kicker Tre Honshtein was a weapon on kickoffs as a junior in 2016 and made nine field goals as a true freshman in 2015, filling in for an injured Luc Swimberghe. This year he stepped in as the Kats’ primary leg and converted on 2 early field goals against Richmond. It may not sound like much, but it was the first game for the Kats with multiple field goals in a game since 2015 after they only made 5 of 8 tries a year ago. He owns a career-long 51-yard field goal from his freshman year, a kick that is still the longest made field goal by a Bearkat since 2005.