The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX


September 24, 2013

BEARKAT FOOTBALL — Fourth-ranked Kats begin work for ‘heavyweight’ clash against No. 2 Eastern Washington

Huntsville will be the center of the FCS world as fourth-ranked Sam Houston State will face No. 2 Eastern Washington on Saturday afternoon at Bowers Stadium.

HUNTSVILLE — A little more than a week ago, Aggieland played host to swarms of media and eager fans to see the battle between Texas A&M and top-ranked Alabama in the highly anticipated rematch between the two squads.

This week, all eyes will be on Huntsville as Sam Houston State will play host to its own “Game of the Century” on Saturday afternoon.

The Bearkats, who are currently ranked fourth and has been one of the top programs in the FCS over the last two years, will do battle with second-ranked Eastern Washington.

If there was a College Gameday television program strictly devoted to the FCS, it would most likely be setting up shop in Huntsville this week.

“It’s probably the biggest (regular-season) game that’s been on this campus, maybe since forever,” Bearkats coach Willie Fritz said Monday morning. “It’s certainly with the two-highest ranked teams. Montana came in here as No. 1 in 2004, but Sam was not ranked at that time.

“Number two versus number four. They’re a quality football team. I have a lot of respect for them. I like their coach, Beau Baldwin, and I like the way they go about their business — offense, defense, kicking game. We both run our programs the right way. This will be a very good college football game between two very good teams.

“That’s one thing about games like this. You don’t have to do a whole lot of motivating. If you can’t get up for a game like this, you probably don’t have a pulse. I think our guys are raring and ready to go. I think we’re going to have a fantastic crowd. I look forward to it.”

 Saturday’s matchup, which is listed as the 2013 FCS nonconference Game of the Year by The Sports Network, is a biggie for several reasons. It’s a big-time matchup because both squads are ranked among the top five squads and are arguably two of the top three programs in the FCS today.

Perhaps the biggest reason that Saturday’s contest is a can’t miss is because of the last meeting between the Bearkats and the Eagles.

It was a mere four games ago for Eastern Washington and six for Sam Houston  State when the two FCS powerhouses clashed in the national semifinals in Cheney, Wash., last December. The Bearkats rode into The Evergreen State having defeated Cal Poly and Montana State, two of The Big Sky Conference’s tri-champions with only Eastern Washington left to complete the clean sweep.

The Kats started out as well as imagined. Quarterback Brian Bell ran the ball in from 6 yards out on Sam Houston State’s opening possession, then senior safety Robert Shaw picked off a pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to give the Bearkats a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

The Kats scored three more TDs in the second to take a commanding 35-0 lead at halftime, which led many Eastern Washington fans to call it a day and head out the gates.

The Eagles, led by freshman quarterback Vernon Adams who was inserted into the game midway through the second quarter, rallied in a huge way. Eastern Washington scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter, then recovered an onside kick and found the end zone again to pull to within 14 points.

Eastern Washington scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth, but Sam Houston did just enough, scoring 10 points in the final period, to come away with the 45-42 victory and earn a second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game in Frisco.

“There is a pride factor — no question,” Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin said. “There is a different feel to this game for us because of the tough loss we had to them in the semifinals. To Sam Houston State’s credit, they did a great job against us, they had a great team and they do again this year. We love getting another shot at them – it’s not a revenge factor but it is human nature for players to want to keep fighting back. And our players are no different.”

“I think it adds quite a bit,” Fritz said. “I think across the country and I’m sure they feel this way that when you talk about FCS powers, they should talk about Eastern Washington and Sam Houston State. This is a heavyweight game. It’s going to be an exciting Saturday.”

Earlier this season, Eastern Washington made headlines after upsetting a ranked Oregon State squad in enemy territory. Trailing 46-43 with less than five minutes to play, Adams led a 75-yard drive and punched in the game-winning score with just 18 seconds to play.

“I think early in the season, that happens quite often,” Fritz said. “I saw how great a club they were last season, particularly in the second half. They’ve won a lot of games there and they won a national championship there. They have a very strong pedigree.”

If Saturday’s game is anything like the last meeting, the scoreboard operator will have their hands full keeping up with Eastern Washington’s and Sam Houston State’s explosive offenses.

The Eagles boast the third-best offense in the FCS at 533 yards per game and rank 21st with 37.7 points per game. The Kats have the 21st-ranked offense at 467 yards per game and are the top-scoring offense in the FCS at 52.3 points per game.

Sam Houston State also has the sixth-best rushing attack, averaging 302.3 yards per game, while Eastern Washington is fourth in passing yards with an average of 364.7 per contest.

“Both of us do it a little differently,” Fritz said. “They’re going to throw it more than they run it and we’re going to run it more than we throw it. It shows you there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I think it’ll be a very exciting game. The team that’s going to win is the team that plays better defense.”

There’s still a long way to go before it’s time for kickoff between these two FCS national powers, but what’s for sure is that this is a big opportunity for both Eastern Washington and Sam Houston to make a statement and position themselves well for the rest of the season.

“Nonconference games of this magnitude in FCS are few and far between,” said Baldwin. “Down the road, if you are in a possible situation for an at-large berth, having a win like this on your resume gives you a better chance. There is a long way to go before we would ever think about that, but I really like playing a tough non-conference schedule. If you can do it against a top opponent at your own level in a home-and-home situation, it’s even bigger. It will be a challenge, but it’s great for FCS.”

Text Only
  • 8-1-Roderique.jpg Closing in on a dream

    Sam Houston State football coach K.C. Keeler made it a point to talk up his quarterbacks this offseason, although he admitted after practice on Thursday that he’s not thrilled with the progress his signal callers have made during the first week of training camp.
    Keeler has gone on the record on multiple occasions to say sophomores Don King III and Jared Johnson have as good of a skill set as any quarterback in the Southland, but Keeler acknowledges that the position will remain a gigantic question mark for Sam Houston until someone decides to run away with the competition.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Huntsville golfers compete on the big stage

    Huntsville High School golfer Chandler Phillips entered the final round of the Junior PGA Championship Thursday at Miramont Country Club in Bryan tied for ninth place, but after posting a score of 53 through 13 holes, Phillips is now tied for 16th place.

    August 1, 2014

  • Phillips holding his own at Junior PGA Championship

    Over at Miramont Country Club in Bryan, Huntsville Hornet Chandler Phillips has put in two solid rounds (70-72) for an even-par total of 142 and is positioned within the top 10 at the prestigious junior golf tournament.

    July 30, 2014

  • RODEO INSIDER: Frost’s legacy lives on

    A quarter-century ago, a 25-year-old bull rider named Lane Frost dropped down a bull named Taking Care Of Business on a dark, cloudy and drizzly Sunday afternoon at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in Wyoming.
    At the final performance of the sport’s equivalent to a Wimbledon stage, the 1987 world champion bailed off the bull after 8 seconds and rolled onto the soggy soil. Taking Care Of Business then charged and plunged his ivory horn into Frost’s back. The hit caused internal injuries, ending Frost’s life within minutes, medical officials said.

    July 30, 2014

  • 7-29-King.jpg BEARKAT FOOTBALL— Ready to rumble

    At the end of the Sam Houston State football team’s first preseason practice Monday at Bowers Stadium, new head coach K.C. Keeler told his players that they “did O.K.” There were dropped passes, missed assignments and errant throws from starters and backups alike. But there were also incredible displays of athleticism, as well as a sense of urgency from players hoping to win a starting job.
    The fate of Sam Houston’s season could rest on the arm of whoever emerges as the team’s starting quarterback. On Monday,  sophomore Don King III played with the first team, but sophomore Jared Johnson and redshirt freshman John Roderique each saw a comparable number of reps.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-28 Hill.jpg 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.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-28 Small.jpg 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.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-28-gerald-thomas-TD-catch.jpg 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.

    July 26, 2014 2 Photos

  • 12-08 hill long run.jpg 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.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 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.

    July 25, 2014


House Ads
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide