Over the last two seasons, the Bearkats have seen a lot of the Big Sky Conference.
Last fall, Sam Houston beat Montana State and then Montana to reach the Football Championship Subdivision national championship game. Just this month, the Kats outlasted Cal Poly in the second round of the FCS playoffs on Dec. 1 and then cruised past Montana State in the quarterfinals last Friday night.
Up next is another team from the Big Sky, the second-seeded Eagles of Eastern Washington, which is the only team left that can keep Sam Houston from returning to Frisco to play for a national championship.
“I know it’s going to be a good ballgame,” Bearkats senior safety Mike Littleton said. “The two teams we played (from the Big Sky in the playoffs) were good teams. We just had a few bigger plays than those guys. We know we’ve got to do the same this week.
“It’d be good to beat all three teams. They’re all good competitors. It’d be good to beat all three of them.”
Not only were the Kats (10-3 overall) able to beat a pair of teams from the Big Sky, but both Cal Poly and Montana State claimed a share of the league’s conference championship. Like the Mustangs and the Bobcats, Eastern Washington (11-2) also won a share of the Big Sky Conference title, which was split three ways.
“Everybody playing right now’s good,” Sam Houston coach Willie Fritz said following Monday evening’s short practice. “They all won a bunch of games, they’re well-coached, so you got the best of the best playing against each other. That’s the great thing about having a tournament.
“The Big Sky is a quality league and Eastern Washington is a very, very, very good team. It’s kind of interesting that we’ll be playing them (in the regular season) the next two years, too.”
The Kats come from what is perceived as a weak FCS conference, while the Big Sky has a claim as being one of the strongest, along with the Colonial Athletic Association, Southern Conference and the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Sam Houston, however, is 4-0 against those teams that hail from the northwestern part of the country.
With a spot in the FCS national championship game on the line, the Bearkats look forward to increasing that winning streak to five games.
“I know a lot of people say that their conference is a lot tougher than our conference,” Littleton said. “It’s a big challenge to go and beat all three top teams like that, knowing that they say their conference is one of the best conferences. That would be a big accomplishment.”
Of the four teams that are still alive in the playoffs (No. 1 seed North Dakota State, second-seeded Eastern Washington, No. 5 seed Georgia Southern and Sam Houston State), the Bearkats are the only one which wasn’t seeded and have needed a complete team effort to fight their way back to the semifinals and position themselves for a chance to play for the national title.
“We do a great job of preparation. Our coaches, I think, do a great job with game plans,” Fritz added. “When you have success, it’s a lot of people involved with it. Our trainers do a great job. Our strength and conditioning program, our managers, our coaches and players believe in what we’re doing and they really do a good job in their preparation.
“Last week, we went up there (to Bozeman, Mont.) and the guys were very business-like in their approach to the game and that’s what you got to have.”
BEARKAT FOOTBALL — Is a clean sweep over the three Big Sky Conference champs in the cards for Sam Houston?
Kats face Big Sky Conference co-champion for third consecutive week with trip to FCS national championship game on the line
Over the last two seasons, the Bearkats have seen a lot of the Big Sky Conference.
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.
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.
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