Kats look for payback at North Dakota

Josh Criswell/The ItemA pair of Sam Houston State defenders bring down the Oklahoma Panhandle quarterback during last week's game at Bowers Stadium.

Almost one year ago to the day, North Dakota rolled into Bowers Stadium and snapped Sam Houston State’s 21-game home winning streak.

On Saturday, the Bearkats will seek revenge on the road in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

“We’re using last year as motivation,” Sam Houston State senior linebacker Hunter Brown said. “It’s like I said at media day, (we’re) creating a monster down here in Huntsville.”

Last year’s 24-23 loss to UND marked the first of five losses in nine games for the Bearkats, who missed the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2010. As a result, the cost of that defeat has been at the center Sam Houston State head coach K.C. Keeler’s message to his team throughout week.

“All of them remember how it felt to lose that ball game,” Keeler said. “We had the lead and gave up a play at the end of the game, and it really changed our season. Instead of being 7-4 and fighting for a playoff spot, we ended up 6-5.

“The emphasis all week was that one play can change a game, and one game can change a season. … You have to be able to go on the road and beat a team like this if you think that you’re worthy of being a playoff team.”

Sam Houston State’s trademark high-power offense appears to be back after taking a dip last season. Through two games, the Bearkats are averaging 90 plays and 568.5 yards per game.

The team plans to continue utilizing its two-quarterback system — which features sophomores Ty Brock and Eric Schmid — once again this week. The pair has compiled 684 total yards and seven touchdowns so far in 2019.

“For the overall team, nobody seems to care who’s starting or who’s in … and I think it works because of their maturity and respect for each other,” Keeler said.

Defensively, the Bearkats are using last year’s performance against North Dakota — during which they gave up 187 yards on the ground and failed to force a turnover — as motivation.

“This week, we’re focusing on being physical and making plays,” Sam Houston State junior defensive lineman Joe Wallace said. “That’s the biggest thing right now … making those game-changing plays.”

Saturday’s game at the ‎Alerus Center is scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m., with Pluto TV Channel 455 carrying the broadcast.