On the heels of two disappointing losses in the past two weeks, especially the latest one in the Southland Conference opener, the last thing the Bearkats wanted or needed was lots of time between games.
With the grind of six straight conference contests on the horizon, Sam Houston is in desperate need of a performance that will get the Bearkats right back on track.
The Kats will have that opportunity today as they head down to Houston to take on Texas Southern in the brand-new BBVA Compass Stadium.
“We came off another very tough loss again,” Sam Houston running back Timothy Flanders said of last Saturday’s 24-20 loss to Central Arkansas. “I’m happy that we’ve got an early game this week, just so that we can get into a groove and hopefully come out with a W.”
For the first time since Kats coach Willie Fritz’s first season in 2010, Sam Houston is dealing with quite a bit of adversity.
Not only will the Bearkats have to win at least seven of the next eight games just to stay alive for a potential conference championship as well as a playoff spot, but they’re also trying to bounce back from their first losing streak since losing three straight games by a combined 11 points late in the 2010 season.
“We’ve gone two games in a row where we haven’t finished the way we need to, having some of our guys making some uncharacteristic mistakes and just focus,” the coach said. “It’s practicing hard. It’s practicing with tempo. It’s playing the game the way you’re supposed to play it.
“We’ve got to do a better job of coaching and playing. I told the guys to not worry about leading. We’re going to coach and I don’t need any of them coaching. I told the coaches that we don’t need any of our coaches playing. We just need to do our job.
“Some lessons are hard-learned and that was obviously a hard lesson for all of us, myself included. As the head coach, I’m the guy that steers the ship. I obviously did not do a good job of getting our guys focused on the game.”
Standing in the way is a Texas Southern team that has also had its share of struggles as of late. After a dramatic 44-41 victory over Prairie View A&M in their season opener, the Tigers have dropped three straight games to North Texas, Jackson State and Alabama A&M by an average of 22 points.
“I know they’re a good team and they’ve got some good players like most teams that we play,” Bearkats safety Darnell Taylor said. “At the same time, we’ve got to help ourselves and just keep fighting until the end. Coach said that it’s mostly on us and what we’ve got to do and not really what they do, for the most part. All we’ve got to do is keep doing what we’re doing and fight to the end.”
In the losses to Baylor and Central Arkansas in the last two weeks, the Bearkats offense had moments of appearing to click on all cylinders, while also stumbling later in the game, preventing Sam Houston from polishing off those games with victories.
With the remainder of the conference slate ahead, including next week’s rivalry game against Stephen F. Austin and a contest against 21st-ranked McNeese State on Oct. 20, the Bearkats know they have to get their offense to be consistent and productive at a high level.
“Everybody knows we’re still a dominant running team,” Flanders said. “In these past couple of games, we’ve been able to throw the ball just fine. I’m OK with it, but we just need to come out and execute in the second half.
“We have to come out here on Thursday and play a better second half and come out and finish the ballgame. We have to come out here and be very conditioned. We haven’t played a full game. We just have to come out and play hard the whole game.”
Knowing what’s at stake, the Bearkats say they’ve come out with a renewed focus and are ready to bounce back.
“It was a humbling experience,” Taylor said. “Coach said it was going to happen either at the beginning of the season or at the end and he was right. I think last game showed us that we have to come out and play each and every week. I think we’re going to get it going.
“We’ve got a big-time focus and you can tell this week. I think we’re going to come out and we’re going to be on top of our game this week. I feel confident and we’re going to be ready.”
Today: Sam Houston State vs.
Texas Southern, BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, 7 p.m.
Records: Bearkats are 1-2; Tigers are 1-3
TV: Bounce TV Houston (Suddenlink Ch. 711)
Radio: KSAM (101.7 FM)