Not often does a college football team get a second chance at an opponent in the same season.
But Sam Houston State gets another shot at 2013 Southland Conference champion Southeastern Louisiana this Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship playoffs at 7 p.m. in Hammond, La.
The game is a rematch of the two squad’s tilt on Nov. 16 which saw the No. 14 ranked Lions defeat the No. 4 Bearkats 34-21.
Now Southeastern is the No. 4 seed in the FCS playoffs and ranked No. 7 in the national polls.
“We’re excited about getting a second chance,” Bearkat senior defensive end Andrew Weaver said. “We’re going to have a good week of practice this week. We need to take care of business.”
Sam Houston has played the same team twice in one season only three times in 97 years of football (in 2004 versus Montana, 1976 against Stephen F. Austin and 1919 with Southwest Texas State).
The Bearkats defeated No. 22 Southern Utah 51-20 last Saturday in the NCAA opening round.
“Our mind-set is to go 1-0 every week,” senior wide receiver/Wild Bearkat specialist Richard Sincere said. “We put all our effort and energy into playing Southern Utah last week. Now it’s time to focus on Southeastern Louisiana.”
Saturday’s matchup is one of three rematches from the regular season as New Hampshire will face No. 5 Maine (New Hampshire won regular-season finale 24-3) and Tennessee State will also face No. 2 Eastern Illinois (EIU won first meeting 34-16).
“We’re very excited about being able to go back over to Southeastern Louisiana,” Sam Houston head coach Willie Fritz said. “Also playing them just a few weeks after we played them last time, it’s a great, great opportunity.”
After losing their final two regular season games, earning a berth in the 24-team NCAA field gave new life to the Bearkats. The potential second-round clash with the Lions was equally exciting.
“We were thrilled that we could get a second chance,” said Weaver. “We’ve got to execute it.”
Despite his squad winning the regular-season contest between the Bearkats and Lions 34-21, Southeastern coach Ron Roberts knows that it’ll be tough to beat Sam Houston State a second time and move on to the quarterfinals.
“This is the playoffs and you’ve got to get ready for a good football team,” Roberts said. “If we’ve beat them before or not, that doesn’t make a difference now. It’s the playoffs and everybody starts off with a new slate.”
Southeastern Louisiana rolled through its Southland Conference schedule undefeated, also posting a win over 2013 FCS playoff team McNeese State in Lake Charles.
“With Sam Houston, we’ve really got to be prepared to play a different team coming in here. I think they’re probably going to come in here with a chip on their shoulder. These guys know obviously how to turn it up in the playoffs and you could see that last week.”
The Bearkats were hitting on all cylinders in their first-round playoff game with 531 yards of total offense. After a dominating performance against Southern Utah, the Kats feel they’ve got plenty of momentum going into the showdown against the Lions.
“We’re feeling great, not just as a team but a program,” Sincere said. “We just feel like we can do what it takes to find some kind of way to be 1-0 at the end Saturday. We don’t take anything for granted. We pride ourselves on being hard workers and winning football games, so being back on the winning side was a great feeling.”
Saturday’s game at Hammond, La., will be telecast on the internet by ESPN 3 with play by play Roy Philpot, color analyst Forrest Conoly and sideline reporter Steffi Sorenson.