Of all the challenges facing the Sam Houston defense in Saturday’s football opener against No. 1 Eastern Washington, slowing down All-America quarterback Vernon Adams Jr stands supreme.
Adams is touted as the FCS’s top quarterback.
Potent and prolific, the junior made national headlines last year with a dissection of Oregon State to begin a record-breaking season that saw him establish 16 new school records, six Big Sky marks and six NCAA Football Championship Subdivision records.
Being honored as the Big Sky Conference MVP and FCS Performer of the Year by College Football Performance Awards were the crowning glories of a season that saw him finish as the runner-up for the Walter Payton Award given by The Sports Network to the top player in FCS.
In two games against Sam Houston, Adams has completed 33 of 57 passes for 719 yards and nine touchdowns.
“Number one defensively, we have to be disciplined,” Sam Houston head coach K. C. Keeler said. “We’ve seen so much video of Eastern Washington and the red field, our eyes hurt. There is no doubt Adams is a tremendous athlete with strong arm.
“Adams is a guy who has no problem pulling the ball down and making something happen with his feet. We have to have great discipline in staying in our rush lanes. If we get out of our rush lanes, he’s going to kill us.”
As a freshman in the NCAA semifinal battle between Sam Houston and EWU in Cheney, Adams entered the contest in the second half with the Bearkats up 35-0 at intermission. In two quarters, he threw for six touchdowns and 364 yards. Two interceptions proved to be the difference as SHSU hung on for a 45-42 victory.
Last season in a regular season matchup in Huntsville, Adams totaled 355 yards and three touchdowns. Sam Houston countered with a powerful running game as the Kats upset the No. 2 ranked Eagles.
“Our defensive line has to make some plays up front,” Keeler said. “Watching Adams on video time after time, if a defender got out of his lane, Adams attacked the void where the defender should have been.”
The Eagles and the Bearkats face off in the FCS Kickoff at 2:35 p.m. Saturday afternoon (Central Time). The contest is the only college game on TV this weekend. Coverage of FBS football does not being until Thursday, August 28.
Sam Houston departs for Cheney, Washington, Friday at 9:30 a.m. The Bearkats own victories in each of their previous meetings with the Eagles. The Kats won 35-34 in the NCAA quarterfinals in 2004 and 45-42 in the NCAA semifinals in 2012.
Each time the two teams have met, both have been nationally ranked. This year Eastern Washington is the preseason No. 1 in The Sporting News poll while the Bearkats have been ranked No. 14 in the NCAA Coaches poll.