HUNTSVILLE – Fifth-ranked Sam Houston State lived up to its place in the national poll on Saturday.
The Bearkats trounced Incarnate Word, 57-20, producing 31 first downs offensively while the defense was relentless, limiting the Cardinals to 0.8 yards per rush in the team’s 18th-straight victory at Bowers Stadium. The game, presented by Villas on Sycamore, was dominated in all three phases by the Kats.
Sam Houston (8-1, 5-1 Southland) scored a touchdown on each of its first three possessions and for a second straight week, its opponent helped the cause on special teams. Two Cardinals’ snaps over the head of punter Cody Seidel deep in their own territory resulted in nine first-half points.
The Kats set a new program record, surpassing 600 yards of total offense for a fifth time this season, finishing with exactly that number. The mark bested last year’s four occasions. Of the 19 times Sam Houston has accumulated 600-plus yards, 14 have come in the K.C. Keeler era (2014-present).
The Kats needed less than a minute on each of their first two touchdown drives, capping both with Corey Avery touchdowns. The senior has given UIW (1-8, 1-6) fits in his career, rushing for a combined 356 yards while scoring eight touchdowns in three meetings against the Cardinals.
Avery finished with three touchdowns and 53 yards on 12 carries. In less than three full quarters of play, quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe tossed four scores to go alongside 399 yards in a 27-for-43 performance.
The Bearkat defense roped in seven tackles for loss, including 1.5for senior defensive lineman P.J. Hall, who matched the NCAA record for the category, joining Southern Utah’s James Cowser (2012-15) with 80.0 in 50 games for his career.
On the second play from scrimmage, Nathan Stewart hauled in a 54-yard reception, surpassing 1,000 yards receiving while becoming the first Bearkat in program history to record multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
Stewart was not the only Sam Houston wideout with a milestone day. Yedidiah Louis capped a 12-play, 45-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown catch to put the Kats ahead 23-0. With the catch, the senior became the Southland Conference’s all-time receiving leader, surpassing fellow Bearkat Matt Dominguez (1997-00), who totaled 3,273 yards.
The New Orleans product also posted his first 100-yard receiving game of the season after racing 21 yards to the house to put Sam Houston ahead 50-14 with 10:05 left in the third quarter. The victory marked the fifth time in the last six wins against UIW that the squad has posted 50-plus points.
After forcing a UIW three-and-out to begin the second half, the Bearkats padded their lead as Briscoe found an open Davion Davis down the right side for a 69-yard touchdown. It marked Davis’s seventh play of 40-plus yards this season. The junior finished with a team-leading 134 yards on seven receptions.
The Kats found paydirt on their first three possessions of the second half including the first-career touchdown from Michael Mueller who caught a 12-yard pass from Briscoe. Following a spectacular one-handed interception from Royce See with 4:39 remaining in the third quarter, the Kats emptied the bench with 70 players seeing action.
Tre Honshtein drilled two field goals, upping his total to 13 for the season. He needs one more to move into a four-way tie for sixth-place in team history. The junior nailed tries of 42 yards and 39 yards.
Sam Houston returns to action next Saturday, hitting the road for the final time in the regular season when the Bearkats visit Abilene Christian. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3. It can also be heard locally on 101.7 KSAM.
QUOTEABLES: Opening thoughts from head coach K.C. Keeler on the win… “It thought we did what we should do to a team that was not our caliber of football team. They’ve had some injuries. Early in the season, I thought they played some teams really tough. It was great getting the young guys in the game. We got some guys with more snaps than usually they usually do. Kyran Jackson coming in as that third back you can see how explosive he is. As the season wears on, he will continue to help us. I thought Jeremiah was on point. He looked good. It was great getting Yedidiah Louis back. He’s the best receiver in the history of this conference. When you go a month without him a lot of other guys had to step up. I thought our defense really stepped up. I think we have an outstanding defensive line. Being able to move P.J. around makes us so much deeper. We have plans on playing for a while.”
Yedi on being back in action and producing the 100-yard game… "It is good to be back on the field from the past to few games. Watching them play made me want to be out there and playing with them. I do all I could on the sidelines trying to coach up the younger guys on what looks to look for. Briscoe is passing through the middle more now that I am back. I just wanted to get back and help contribute to the team.”
Jeremiah Briscoe on the team’s fast start… "Yeah it is huge. That is something we try and do every week. We script our first 12 plays and just try to get as many points on the board as we can and work as fast as we can and get rolling. Establish everything we want to do if that is rushing the ball. I thought we played very well early on but we did hit a little wall in the second quarter and got a little complacent and had a few missed assignments. After that though we got it back and got it rolling. The line did an unbelievable job in the run game and I thought our backs played really well. We knew they weren't going to give up a lot of deep shots and so most of it was our receivers making big plays."
P.J. Hall on tying FCS tackles-for-loss record… "It is an incredible feeling and I know there have been a lot of big players to come into the FCS. So being able to tie the record is incredible. I am trying to what I do for the team."