HUNTSVILLE – The No. 5 Sam Houston State Bearkats allowed just one score in the second half, but it was a costly one as North Dakota’s Nate Ketteringham connected with Noah Wanzek on a fourth down to push the Fighting Hawks to a 24-23 win on Saturday night at Bowers Stadium.
The loss snaps a 21-game win streak for the Bearkats (1-1) that dated back to the 2015 season and stood as the longest active home win streak in the nation. The Kats did not turn the ball over and made a big special teams play for the second time in as many weeks, but surrendered five sacks and settled for field goals on two prime scoring chances in the third quarter.
Sam Houston finished with just 300 yards of total offense with Mike Dare completing 20 of his 31 pass attempts and 201 yards in his second game with the Kats. Kyran Jackson finished with 61 yards and his first two career rushing touchdowns, while Tre Honshtein connected on his final three field goals of the night.
The Fighting Hawks held the ball for more than seven minutes longer than the Bearkats in the opening period, cashing in on three of only four drives in the opening 30 minutes and finishing with 240 total yards, including 156 on the ground.
An early third-down conversion kept the opening drive alive for UND and they would go on to march 70 yards on 10 plays to stake itself to an early 7-0 lead on the strength of a 3-yard touchdown run by Brady Oliveira.
But the Kats would answer back, going 83 yards on 13 plays themselves the first time they touched the ball. Dare connected with Nathan Stewart three times on the opening drive, but it was a 1-yard plunge from Jackson on 4th-and-goal that finished off the drive after 5:04 ran off the clock.
The teams traded empty possessions on the next two drives before the Fighting Hawks went back in front, 10-7, on the strength of a 26-yard field goal from Brady Leach early in the second quarter. One drive later they would add seven more to the total when Ketteringham capped a nine-play drive with a one-yard run to make it 17-7.
Sam Houston managed to cut the lead back down to just seven in the half’s final minute on a 41-yard field goal by Tre Honshtein.
The Kats returned from halftime showing renewed energy and pushed the ball 57 yards on eight plays to even up the game at 17 on the opening possession of the half, finishing the eight-play drive with Jackson’s second score of the night.
The Sam Houston defense held their own on the next possession, forcing a three-and-out and setting up the special teams unit. Mark Fernandez then broke through the line on the first punt try of the night by the Hawks to block the punt and put the Bearkat offense in business inside the UND 5-yard line. But the Hawks were able to sack Dare for a 15-yard loss on first down and held the Kats to a 34-yard field goal from Honshtein that put the Kats in front 20-17.
Again Sam Houston defense prevented the Fighting Hawks from crossing the 50-yard line on the following drive, forcing a three-and-out from the UND offense. The Kats took then possession on their own 18-yard line and barreled down the field on a 72-yard drive that ate up 5:06 on the game clock. But despite pushing the ball deep into the red zone, settled for Honshtein’s third field goal of the game from 28 yards out to put SHSU ahead 23-17.
But from there the Kats would run just 13 more offensive plays in the final 20 minutes of the game, leaving the door open for UND. The Fighting Hawks took advantage of that late in the fourth quarter when they marched 84 yards on 12 plays to re-take the lead. The Kats nearly held firm inside the 10-yard line, but Ketteringham was able to find Wanzek in the far right corner of the end zone on fourth down to tie it up before Brady Leach’s PAT gave them the lead for good.
Sam Houston had one last chance to put the winning points on the board, but Jackson was stopped just short of the first-down marker, turning it over with just over three minutes to go in the game inside Bearkat territory.
K.C. Keeler opening statement …
“Tremendous effort to North Dakota. I thought they played one heck of a football game. When it came down to it, they made one more play than we made. And it wasn’t the last play in the end zone defensively. The first drive we had a chance to have a sack and get off the field. But we didn’t get the sack and they continued to go down and score. We had the ball on the four-yard line and instead of finding a way to get the ball in the end zone, we took some negative yards and had to kick a field goal. So, like I told the players – your season isn’t over, it just started. North Dakota came in and made one more play than you did, you have to give them all the credit. They made the trip, came and played in the heat, and I thought they did a really good job. We don’t see their brand of football as much and so I think we overran some of our toss plays early. Their tailback is phenomenal, their quarterback is really good, their offensive line is great, they’re very well coached…and you know that’s kind of where it’s at. We made too many negative plays on offense when we had opportunities to do some positive things and put ourselves in good positions, and that’s typically not who we are. But you know when you graduate some of the greatest players in the history’s program you know there’s going to be a transition taking place, and that transition needs to get cleaned up real quick. All the credit to North Dakota, they are very well coached.”
Keeler on coming out strong in the second half …
“Well, it wasn’t really a major adjustment. When you think about it that first drive took a lot time off the clock and we had only had one possession the first quarter…and we were off the field and had a sack. It’s one play – and where was that one play? Where’s your one play? I’ve seen these moments really galvanize a team, really bring them together and that’s what I’m hoping it does. We had one drive that first quarter, and you have to give North Dakota all the credit to get us off the field. We played with some tempo, and we played a little better offensively that second half. But we settled for some threes, and against a really good team, you can’t do that. They made that one play…I thought we were in the right defense…quarterback made a heck of a play, the receiver made a heck of a play, and people are going to think that play beat us but there were a lot of other plays during the game we could have capitalized on and we didn’t.”
Davion Davis on getting more involved in the game and chemistry with Dare …
“It’s going well. Me and Mike are friends we play games with each other and stuff, so I guess off the field is growing even more and on the field during practice. After practice, we talk to each other about what coverage the scout team gave us, just really communicating with one another and I think that is what’s really bringing us together.”
Zyon McCollum on the defensive effort in the second half …
“In the first half, everything was going crazy, moving a million miles per hour, and was just chaotic. At the half, we had really good talks with our coaches so when we went back out everything started to get slower. I think slowing down the game early and just trusting what is coached will help us in the first half moving forward.”
McCollum on the game-winning touchdown by North Dakota …
“You know we could say a million negative things, think negatively, and have this season turn out negatively; but I feel we are strong enough as men and football players to transfer that negative energy into positive. We will come in tomorrow and start hitting hard on practice and film. If somebody is negative our leaders are going to change that and switch it up so that we do have a positive outtake on this loss and will be ready for the conference.”
- - Kyran Jackson’s one-yard touchdown to open the Bearkat scoring was the first touchdown of his Sam Houston State career.
- - Tre Honshtein nailed three field goals, giving him 37 for his career and moving him into sole possession of fifth all-time at SHSU.
- - SHSU limited UND to just 18 yards in the third quarter. The Kats totaled 125 yards and held possession of the ball for over 10 minutes.