The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Sports

September 22, 2013

SAM HOUSTON STATE FOOTBALL: Record-breaking night for Bearkats

On long TD run, Flanders becomes Southland’s all-time leading rusher

HUNTSVILLE — 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.

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