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April 12, 2014

SHSU FOOTBALL — Bearkats offense, defense clash in intrasquad showdown

HUNTSVILLE — The Bearkats finally got to showcase their skills in front of the home crowd in Friday night’s Orange-White Spring Game at Bowers Stadium.

It’s one of the few games in which there’s no side to root against, both Bearkats but in different colors. Instead, every big play was a positive one for Kat fans.

Sam Houston State’s offense, wearing white, outscored the defense through the special point system, 84-70.

With 15 practices over four weeks in the books, Bearkats head coach K.C. Keeler said he thought the team made progress despite being decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball, particularly defensively.

It was difficult to evaluate the team without the quarterbacks being live and without seven defensive linemen, three key players in the secondary and the top returning linebacker all sidelined with late-season injuries.

“I thought the kids came out and competed. That’s what you really want them to do,” Keeler said. “We have so many bodies that are out on the offensive side and the defensive side so it’s really tough to get a feel for where we are. The goal was to try and catch Eastern Washington, who is obviously way ahead of us right now. But hopefully we made some ground.

“I feel pretty good about where we’re going but we have a long way to go.”

The Bearkats’ first team offense was quarterbacked by sophomore-to-be Don King III, who hit receivers Rickey Smith and Yedidiah Louis for first-down and touchdown passes.

Smith and Louis have been two of the most active receivers during the spring session. Smith will be a fifth-year senior, while Louis enters his redshirt freshman season for the Bearkats in 2014.

King completed 14 of 21 pass attempts for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Bearkats showed glimpses of what’s expected to be a dangerous screen game with the team’s staple of running backs and whoever wins the quarterback competition.

“Coming out here and running the new offense has been pretty challenging for everybody,” King said. “We all had to adjust to it with a different coaching staff and everything. But I think we’ve adjusted well. I saw a couple of good plays and of course with the new offense, you’re going to have a couple of mistakes but it’s still a process. Then we have some people who were injured but I think it’s all going to come together.

“The screen game has been working pretty well, especially with the fast pace. It catches defenses off guard and when we’re at that fast tempo, it’s pretty hard to stop us.”

King is competing for the starting job with John Roderique, incoming freshman Cole Martin and the injured Jared Johnson.

Quarterback is one of several key positions the Bearkats looking to fill this offseason.

“It’s a competition between all of us and we know that. In the meeting room, we know the situation we’re in,” King said. “We’re still friends and all of that but when it comes down to the field, we know we have to come out here to compete for this job and I think it’s going to make all of us better by pushing each other.”

There were also touchdown runs by running backs Steven Hicks (2 yards) and Samuel Kelly, who broke free for a 29-yard score.

Roderique, working with the second team, ended the scrimmage with a 60-yard touchdown run, bouncing off multiple defensive teammates before sprinting to the end zone.

On the defensive side of the ball, redshirt freshman linebacker A.J. Davis came up with big hits in the first half.

“I think we’ve just got to stay focused,” Davis said. “Being young, we’ve got to make plays and step up. We’ve just got to grow, have better communication. That’s a big key to our defense.”

Denzell Barnett, a sophomore transfer safety from West Texas A&M, had the lone interception of the day when he muscled the football from a teammate after a cornerback blitz forced a tough throw by third string quarterback Logan Taylor.

“It’s a great opportunity to show the people of Huntsville and our family and friends what we can do to get read for the season,” Barnett said. “We have a lot of injuries right now so the young guys like me are trying step up and learn the system.”

The Bearkats open the season at Eastern Washington on Aug. 23 in the “FCS Kickoff,” which will be the first college football game of 2014 and will broadcast live on ESPN.


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