The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX


December 9, 2012

Kats prove they can play in cold during dominating victory over Montana State

HUNTSVILLE — All last week, the Bearkats were eagerly looking forward to heading to Montana for their quarterfinal matchup against the second-ranked and No. 3 national seed Montana State. And for a few reasons.

The Bobcats were a team that Sam Houston faced last year in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and a squad the Bearkats easily handled 49-13. A win over Montana State would also bring Sam Houston one step closer toward returning to the FCS national championship game in Frisco.

The Kats also wanted to respond to some criticism that they could in fact go up north, go into Big Sky country and win in the cold, something they didn’t have to do last season in the playoffs.

Sam Houston answered those calls in a resounding way with a dominant 34-16 victory over the payback-seeking Bobcats.

If you go back and look at the numbers and how the games played out, the two victories the Kats had over Montana State were awfully similar.

In both games, Sam Houston’s defense stifled Bobcats quarterback DeNarius McGhee in the first half and the Bearkats used that to take a double-digit lead into halftime with nearly the same score (20-6 in 2011 and 20-3 on last Friday night).

Just like in the 2011 quarterfinal, Montana State methodically moved its way down the field and scored on its first possession of the second half to cut away at the deficit.

Sam Houston buckled down defensively, holding the Bobcats to 10 yards in the next three possessions that ended on a fumble and a pair of punts.

Meanwhile, the Bearkats offense kept hitting big plays to move the ball and put up a couple of more touchdowns as Brian Bell hit wide receiver Chance Nelson for crucial 16- and 45-yard touchdowns to put the game away.

In order to advance to this week’s national semifinal showdown against Eastern Washington, the Bearkats needed have a lot of those things go their way, especially in front of a hostile crowd of 16,417 in a frigid 32 degrees with the wind chill making it feel like 22 degrees.

At this point of the season, what Sam Houston needed was to win the turnover battle, force mistakes with defensive pressure, stay balanced offensively and also win the time of possession.

That’s certainly much, much easier said than done in the playoffs with only the best of the best still alive, but that’s just what the Bearkats were able to do against a team that had previously lost just one game all season by a mere three points (27-24) to the No. 2 seeded Eagles of Eastern Washington.

By passing all of those tests with straight A’s, it’s no surprise that Sam Houston was able to put the game out of reach with more than 10 minutes to go.

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