Kats ready for final road test at ACU

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HUNTSVILLE – The 2017 regular season continues to wind down and the Sam Houston State Bearkats will look to continue priming for a playoff run on Saturday when they travel to Abilene Christian to take on the Wildcats.

The Kats currently hold the No. 4 spot in the nation in both the STATS FCS and NCAA Coaches’ Polls, while occupying the No. 6 spot in the first NCAA committee rankings released last week. The committee will release their second rankings on Thursday evening at halftime of the ESPNU broadcast of Appalachian State and Georgia Southern’s game.

Since taking its only blemish of the year on Sept. 30 at Central Arkansas, Sam Houston has reeled off five consecutive wins and still sits just a game behind the Bears in the SLC standings with two games to be played. Saturday will mark the first trip for the Bearkats to ACU’s new venue, Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium.

The sparkling new facility is just one of the new features of ACU football with head coach Adam Dorrel in his first year at the helm of the Wildcats, taking over the program after winning three Division II national titles at his alma mater, Northwest Missouri State. He joined ACU as the winningest active head coach in all of NCAA football at the time with a record of 76-8.

ACU sports the top pass defense in the Southland, allowing just 182 yards per game through the air but nearly 200 yards per contest on the ground. They will get their toughest test of the season against a Bearkat offense which has been firing on all cylinders of late, especially after the return of dynamic senior wide receiver Yedidiah Louis.

The Bearkats currently lead FCS in scoring and total offense and are looking to join Portland State (1978-80) as the only FCS teams in history to pace the nation in total offense for three consecutive seasons. Sam Houston has surpassed the 600-yard mark of offense in five of nine games this year, a program record, while Jeremiah Briscoe has taken over the national lead in touchdown passes. The senior tossed four in Saturday’s win against UIW and has thrown 13 in his last four contests to up his season total to 27 and put him in line to become the first FCS quarterback since Eastern Washington’s Bo Levi Mitchell in 2010 and 2011 to lead the nation in touchdown passes in consecutive years.

Defensively the Kats have picked off at least one pass in each of the last three games and is coming off stellar efforts against the rush in games against Southeastern Louisiana and UIW. Sam Houston held the Lions to just 202 yards on the ground after Southeastern entered the game ranked second in the nation in rushing and followed that up by holding UIW to just 28 yards rushing in Saturday’s win at Bowers Stadium.

COVERAGE
Saturday’s game will be aired live on ESPN3 with David Saltzman on play-by-play and Keith Moreland providing color analysis. Fans can also listen live on KSAM 101.7 FM with Kooter Roberson and E.P. Garth in the booth, and Brian Adams patrolling the sidelines.

Live stats are available to fans, in addition to live updates being provided by following @BearkatsFB on Twitter.
RECORD WATCH
- P.J. Hall tied the FCS record (since 2000) for tackles for loss on Saturday vs UIW and now has 80.0 for his career. His next TFL will snap a tie with Southern Utah’s James Cowser for the FCS record.

- Jeremiah Briscoe needs 436 yards to reach 10,000 yards passing for his career and two touchdowns to reach 100 in that category. Only two quarterbacks in Southland history – SFA’s Jeremy Moses and Brady Attaway – have thrown for 10,000 yards, while only Moses and UCA’s Nathan Brown have 100 touchdown tosses for their careers.

- Corey Avery’s 53 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground gave him 2,929 yards and 36 touchdowns for his career. He holds sole possession of second place all-time at SHSU, trailing only Timothy Flanders in both categories. Flanders’ 5,644 yards and 66 rushing touchdowns are both the most in Sam Houston and Southland Conference history.

- The Kats also have a pair of wide receivers chasing another Berakat record. Matt Dominguez currently holds the SHSU record with 27 career touchdown catches, but both senior Yedidiah Louis and junior Davion Davis are right on his heels. Each has 24 for their careers, while sophomore Nathan Stewart is not far behind with 20 in less than two seasons.

THE SERIES
The Wildcats own a 12-10 advantage in the all-time series against Sam Houston, but are still looking for their first win over the Kats since joining the Division I ranks in 2014. Sam Houston won in the team’s final meeting as Division II schools in 1984 and the series remained dormant until ACU’s inclusion to the Southland Conference for the 2014 season. In the three meetings since, Sam Houston has won by an average score of 45-21.

WITH A BEARKAT WIN ...
- K.C. Keeler would win his 217th career game. He is currently tied for 17th all-time among FCS head coaches with Wofford’s Mike Ayers. One spot ahead of them on the all-time list is former SHSU head coach Ron Randleman, who sits 16th with 218 career wins.

- Sam Houston would win its 77th game since the beginning of the 2011 season. The Kats and North Dakota State are the only two teams in the FCS with 70 victories since the beginning of the 2011 campaign.

- The Kats would need one more victory to reach 10 wins in 2017, hitting double-digit wins for the fourth consecutive season and the sixth time in the last seven years. In its now 102-year history, Sam Houston has won at least 10 games 8 times (1956, 2001, 2004, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016).

LEFTOVER KATNIP FROM 57-20 WIN OVER UIW ...
- Sam extended its win streak at Bowers Stadium to 17 games, setting a new mark for the second longest home win streak in school history. The streak is the longest current streak in the FCS with the last loss at Bowers coming to Lamar on Sept. 19, 2015 by a 49-46 score. Since the start of 2011, the Kats have been nearly perfect on the Bowers Stadium turf, having won 44 of their last 46 games in front of their home crowd overall. The current school record for consecutive home victories is 23 in a row that stretched from 2010 to 2014.

- The Kats moved to 6-0 against UIW since the series began in 2012. it is the most wins against one team without a loss or tie in the series in Bearkat football history. In those 6 wins over UIW, Sam Houston has scored an average of 54.1 ppg. They have scored 30 or more points in 18 straight games at Bowers Stadium, and 40 or more in each of their last 13 in front of the home crowd.

- Nathan Stewart hauled in a 54-yard pass from Jeremiah Briscoe on the Kats’ first drive of the game, a catch that pushed him past the 1,000-yard mark this season. He is already just the eighth player in Bearkat history to reach the 2,000-yard mark for his career, doing so in just 21 games to set a school record as the fastest Bearkat in history to reach the mark, just ahead of Jarrod Fuller who did it in 22 games from 2003-04. He is now also the first player in Bearkat history with multiple 1,000-yard seasons.

- Sam Houston racked up 7.0 tackles for loss against the Cardinals. They have gone 36 consecutive games with at least 3.0 TFLs and have totaled 24.0 TFLs over the last 3 games. The Kats also held UIW to just 28 yards rushing, the second time this season they have held a team below 30 yards rushing.