For the second straight week, the Bearkats had trouble creating separation against a team they blew out last season.
This time, the Sam Houston State offense didn’t have any problems scoring points, but the defense found it difficult to get Incarnate Word off the field.
Late in the second quarter, the fifth-ranked Kats tightened up where they needed to and began to pull away. Highlighted by running back Timothy Flanders’ record-breaking day, the Bearkats won running away 52-21.
“We really focused on enthusiasm and just having fun,” Bearkats quarterback Brian Bell said. “When we put points up on the board, we’re working for that all week. ... We had a lot of fun and I think it showed. You could tell how much momentum we had offensively.”
With the Kats holding a 31-14 lead at halftime, Flanders knew he would likely have just a few more carries and opportunities to break the Southland Conference all-time rushing record before Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz brought in the backups.
Following a 7-yard carry on the first snap of the third quarter, Flanders stood at 116 rushing yards on the day and needed 16 more to break the all-time mark of 4,694 set in 1997 by Southwest Texas’ Claude Mathis.
Like Incarnate Word running backs coach Ricky Williams, who needed only 11 yards to break Tony Dorsett’s all-time rushing record when he plowed through Texas A&M’s defense for a 60-yard touchdown in Texas’ final regular-season game in 1998, Flanders took a handoff from Bell and churned up the middle.
With Cardinal defenders in the way, Flanders bounced to the outside and thanks to a big block by receiver Torrance Williams, the Kats standout back burned up the sideline before stretching the ball across the goal line for a 41-yard touchdown.
“It felt good,” said Flanders, who also set a new Southland Conference mark for career touchdowns in last week’s contest against Texas Southern. “The offensive line did a very good job. I slapped every last one of them in the hand and all of my teammates. I feel very blessed to be in this position.
“It’s over with now. Now, it’s on to the next game.”
Fritz was pleased that on a record-breaking play, his workhorse also found the end zone.
“That was really neat,” the coach said. “Torrance Williams had a sensational block on the backside of that play that helped us bring it back all the way. It’s just a tremendous accomplishment. We’ve got a lot of football left to play. Our goal with Timothy is put that darn record so far ahead that no one’s going to break that sucker. It was a great, great effort by him.
“It’s great that a guy who is such a team player got the record. Offensive linemen who played with him over the years, wide receivers, anybody who has been a part of our scout team takes a part in this record. We’re very, very proud.”
Flanders wasn’t the only Kat to put his name in the record books Saturday. Senior Richard Sincere recorded 35 more receiving yards and became just the second Bearkat to post more than 1,000 career yards of rushing and receiving. Additionally, Sincere became the eighth Bearkat to record more than 3,000 all-purpose yards. Sincere tallied 13 rushing yards, 35 receiving yards and 69 yards in kickoff returns Saturday to run his all-purpose yards mark to 3,072.
Bell may have had the Bearkats’ best night from start to finish. He completed 19 of 25 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns. Bell also rushed for 35 yards and a score.
But with less than nine minutes to go in the first half, the Bearkats found themselves trailing 14-10.
The Kats were in a similar scenario last week against Texas Southern when they were behind 3-0 with less than six minutes to go in the second quarter. Just like their last contest, the Kats didn’t panic.
Sam Houston State put together another solid drive. Bell hit Chance Nelson for a 14-yard gain and then hit Torrance Williams for a 15-yard completion to move the Kats into Cardinals territory.
Flanders rushed for 3 and 13 yards for a pair of first downs, then ran the ball up the gut and broke into the end zone.
That pushed the Kats ahead 17-14 and gave them the lead for good.
The defense hit its stride and forced a pair of three-and-outs.
“Like Brian said that they get excited when they score, we get excited when they score,” Kats linebacker Tanner Brock said of the offense. “We love seeing them out on the field. We know what they can do; we practice against them four days a week. It’s truly amazing what they can do out there and how quickly they can score. All we know is that if we can get them the ball, good things are possible to happen.
“We just had a gut check. We had the right defenses called to stop those plays. At times, one or two guys wouldn’t do their jobs, myself included. We just didn’t play the entire defense, completely. Sitting on the bench (defensive coordinator Mike Collins) loves drawing on the white board and making those corrections and making sure guys know what they did wrong right after the fact.”
The Bearkats used those stops to score 14 more points in the final six minutes.
Bell hit Sincere for a first down and the speedy receiver broke a few tackles before waltzing into the end zone.
A little later in the quarter, Bell saw that Torrance Williams had a one-on-one matchup along the sideline and the Kats’ senior quarterback lofted the ball toward the end zone. The wideout used his speed to create distance between himself and the defensive back and easily hauled in a 39-yard touchdown pass.
“We just had to stay within ourselves,” Bell said. “We can’t beat ourselves offensively. We play with what the defense gives us and play within ourselves and our tempo. If we’re just patient, something’s going to pop and we can have some fun.”
With reserves in the game midway through the third following Flanders’ second score, the Bearkats allowed one more score late in the third before responding with a 1-yard touchdown dive by Bell in the early stages of the fourth.
With the victory over Incarnate Word in the books, the Kats can finally turn their attention to this week’s huge matchup against second-ranked Eastern Washington.
The two teams met in last year’s semifinals of the FCS playoffs. Sam Houston State streaked to a 35-0 halftime lead, before the Eagles came storming back and pulled to within three points, but the Kats held on to win 45-42 and advanced to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game in Frisco.
On long TD run, Flanders becomes Southland’s all-time leading rusher
For the second straight week, the Bearkats had trouble creating separation against a team they blew out last season.
BEARKAT FOOTBALL— Road to redemption
There were no footballs at the Sam Houston State football team’s first day of preseason camp. The team didn’t take the field, and the slew of questions facing the Bearkats this season remained unanswered.
Regardless, after losing by a point to Southeastern Louisiana in last season’s FCS playoffs, senior running back Keshawn Hill seized Sunday’s series of team meetings as an opportunity to begin taking the Bearkats back to national prominence.
BEARKAT FOOTBALL— Small named SHSU football operations coordinator
Jonathan Small has joined the Sam Houston State University athletic staff as football operations coordinator for Bearkat head coach K.C. Keeler’s program.
Small comes to Huntsville after heading up football operations for the Elon University Phoenix since May 2013 and the previous three seasons at The College of William and Mary.
BEARKATS FOOTBALL — Pondering the possibilities For 2014 season
It’s been 232 days since the Sam Houston State football team fell in gut-wrenching fashion to Southeastern Louisiana in last season’s FCS playoffs. Since then, change has been constant.
Willie Fritz is gone and K.C. Keeler is now attempting to lead the Bearkats to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Sam Houston will need to replace 13 starters from last year’s squad, including record-setting running back Timothy Flanders and the program’s all-time winningest quarterback Brian Bell.
Questions to be answered
Uncertainty isn’t always a precursor to unmitigated disaster. The Sam Houston State football team will enter the 2014 season with a new coaching staff, new offensive and defensive schemes and a plethora of new faces competing for starting jobs that were vacated by players who helped lead the program to three consecutive playoff appearances.
The schedule is daunting, but it’s not out of the question for the Bearkats to go undefeated in conference play this fall. The roster is young and relatively inexperienced, but there are talented players on the depth chart who have not yet had an opportunity to showcase their skills. There are plenty of reasons to temper expectations for 2014, but also many reasons to hope the Bearkats can win the games they are supposed to win and find their way to the playoffs again.
Rodeo: Brazile looking for another championship
Trevor Brazile is attempting to earn a record 12th world all-around title on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit.
In the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings, he currently is ranked No. 1 in the all-around race with regular-season earnings of $149,420, $46,345 ahead of his brother-in-law, Tuf Cooper.
Brazile and Cooper are traveling partners. They hit the road together in late June while competing at the Reno Rodeo in Nevada, the PRCA’s first major summer event.
Justin Gilbert signs with Browns
A few days before of the start of training camp, former Huntsville Hornet Justin Gilbert officially became a member of the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday when he signed his first NFL contract.
Now that he’s got his contract with the Browns, he needs a starting job.
Another record for Derrick Ross
In his short career in the Arena Football League, Huntsville’s Derrick Ross has left his mark.
Playing in his fourth season in the league and his third with the Philadelphia Soul, Ross notched another record.
Along with being the all-time leading rusher, a mark he sat last year, Ross now also owns the record for most career rushing touchdowns after scoring three TDs on June 7.
BEARKATS FOOTBALL — Kats have something to prove
Bearkats running back Keshawn Hill has already won two Southland Conference championships, played in as many national championship games and made the playoffs in each of his three seasons at Sam Houston State.
The team is still four days away from its first practice of 2014, but the Bearkats senior running back already has a chip on his shoulder. Despite the program’s recent success, Sam Houston State was picked to finish third in the Southland.
Southland coaches have different takes on accepting transfer players
Show Southeastern Louisiana head coach Ron Roberts the past and he says he’ll show you the future.
Before Roberts took the reins at Southeastern, the program had only managed one winning season since it was restarted in 2003 after a 17-year hiatus. In just his second season at the helm, Roberts brought the Lions into the national spotlight by leading his team to an undefeated Southland Conference record and a playoff victory over Sam Houston State, a national runner-up the previous two seasons. The Lions finished the season ranked sixth in both The Sports Network and FCS Coaches final polls.
Future Hornets take the field
Never before has there been Stars of Huntsville Softball Camp, and it’s not every day that Huntsville’s youth softball players have an opportunity to learn the game’s fundamentals from the town’s most experienced players and coaches.
On Monday, nearly 25 campers took the field at Kate Barr Ross Park and were instructed by Huntsville Hornets softball head coach Rick Burns and several members of his team. The players, coaches and campers battled through the heat to have a successful day that saw many of the campers receive one-one-one instruction.
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