The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX


January 5, 2013

NCAA Division I Football Championship Game — Blown out by better team

Bison outscore SHSU 29-3 in second half, claim another national title

FRISCO — Sam Houston State hoped to make history and exorcise a few demons Saturday by winning a national championship.

Just like they did a year ago, the Bearkats left FC Dallas Stadium with an empty feeling in the pit of their stomachs as they had to watch North Dakota State celebrate another NCAA Football Championship Subdivision championship at their expense.

In the second half, the Bison came up with big plays and produced touchdowns, while Sam Houston only could muster a field goal. The Bearkats  turned over the ball three times in a 39-13 defeat in the 2013 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game.

“It hurts, you know,” Bearkats senior linebacker Darius Taylor said, “to get back a second time and not being able to finish again. This is going to be my last year and I’m not going to get to play with these guys again.

“I just say to the young guys and the guys coming back to keep working hard and good things will come. I told them all in the locker room to keep their heads up. I love ’em. I told my seniors that I had a great four years with them and they’re like my brothers. They know that and I expressed it to them after the game. I just want to tell coach (Willie) Fritz that I love him and I’m going to miss him. It’s been a fun ride.”

Tied at 10 at halftime, Sam Houston was just 30 minutes away from winning its first FCS national championship, if it could find a way to finish the game.

In their first possession of the second half, the Kats were making their way down the field, like they did for much of the first half.

After a defensive pass interference penalty on North Dakota State, cornerback Marcus Williams extended Sam Houston’s drive and the Bearkats, who finished the 2012 season at 11-4, continued to push the ball into Bison territory.

On third-and-4 from the NDSU 41-yard line, Kats running back Timothy Flanders found an opening in the Bison defensive line and broke free all the way to the end zone for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown. The score, however, came off the board due to a holding call on freshman offensive lineman Donald Jackson.

“I’m more disappointed in some of our penalties that we had were pre-snap penalties. I tell the guys all the time that once the ball is snapped, all of the decisions made out there are subjective decisions. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it,” Fritz said.

“I’d have to go look and see if that was a good call or not. There was some opportunities there. I thought we could’ve answered two quick scores that they had, but it didn’t bounce that way. You’ve got to fight through that and we didn’t.”

The Bearkats went from taking the lead to suddenly needing to convert a third-and-13 from midfield. With not much option other than trying to throw for the first down, Sam Houston quarterback Brian Bell was intercepted by Bison linebacker Carlton Littlejohn.

North Dakota State (14-1) methodically drove the field and punched the ball across the goal line on a 1-yard sneak by quarterback Brock Jensen, who was named the title game’s most outstanding player.

“That’s a big turning point. Whenever a team scores a touchdown and it gets taken off the board, it gives us more momentum,” Williams said. “Football’s a game of momentum. If you’re up, you’re up and if you’re high, you’re high. In this game, we needed as much momentum as we could.

“Them not getting that touchdown and us getting the turnover, that was big for us.”

Sam Houston tried to answer that score, moving into Bison territory on the following possession. After gaining 9 yards on first-and-10 from North Dakota State’s 44, the Kats’ drive stalled and they turned the ball over on downs.

Quickly, the Bison were back in scoring position following a 31-yard connection from Jensen to wide receiver Zach Vraa. A few plays later, North Dakota State running back Sam Ojuri bulled his way into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 2. The Bison then made the best of a bad snap on their extra point and kicker Adam Keller scooped up the ball and lobbed a pass to lineman Mike Hardie in the back of the end zone for a 2-point conversion that stretched North Dakota State’s lead to 25-10 with 2:08 to go in the third quarter.

“Well, it looked like a disaster waiting to happen when it first started,” Bison coach Craig Bohl said. “We do work on a 2-point play when there’s an errant snap and quite frankly, it was not drawn up how we practiced it. I thought it was pretty resourceful by Adam Keller to take the ball.”

There wasn’t much the Bearkats could do the rest of the way to effectively cut into the deficit and make it interesting.

Sam Houston senior kicker Miguel Antonio booted a 32-yard field goal to inch the Kats within 12 at 25-13 in the early stages of the fourth.

North Dakota State drove the field again, thanks to a 26-yard run by Ojuri and a tricky halfback (jump) pass by John Crockett to Kevin Vaadeland that went for 26 yards.

Jensen capped the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak, his third score of the day.

Bell and sophomore backup quarterback Chris Grett each were later intercepted as the Kats finished with four costly turnovers, which led to 21 points.

Part of the reason that the Bearkats gave up so many big plays in the second half is because they had to do without starting linebacker Jesse Beauchamp and All-American safety Darnell Taylor, who were injured in the first half and did not return to the game.

In the first half, Sam Houston had plenty of momentum due to the success of the passing game. The Bearkats moved the ball with ease against the stout Bison defense. Bell was able to hit Flanders and receivers Richard Sincere, Trey Diller and Torrance Williams for 151 yards off 10 completions.

“We felt good about the offense,” Sincere said. “We knew we just needed to play clean and play smart and we’d be successful.”

Penalties, though, wiped away any chance of the Bearkats scoring touchdowns. Twice in the first half, Sam Houston had runs that would have positioned the Kats around the Bison 10-yard line, but holding calls negated the yards gained on those plays by Sincere (28 yards) and Flanders (18).

Despite coming up empty-handed on those possessions, Sam Houston made a game of it just before halftime.

Trailing 10-3 after a 20-yard Jensen touchdown run, Bell and the Bearkat offense engineered a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard TD reception by tight end K.J. Williams to tie the game with 33 seconds to play in the second quarter.

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