Sam Houston State and Montana State will face off in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs for the second consecutive season. This time the game will be played in Bozeman, Mont.
Both teams return nearly every starter from last year's game that the Bearkats won 49-13.
The Big Sky Co-Champion Bobcats are led by junior quarterback DeNarius McGhee, the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, and senior linebacker Jody Owens, the Big Sky Defensive MVP. Both players started in the game a year ago.
McGhee has thrown for 2,934 yards and 23 touchdowns while also rushing for 328 yards and four touchdowns. He threw four touchdowns in two games this season; against Chadron State in the season opener and against Portland State.
Owens leads the team with 90 total tackles and 57 solo stops. He has four sacks and four forced fumbles. His top performance of the season was 11 tackles against Southern Utah.
In the 2011 matchup, the Bearkats ran wild for 428 yards on the ground. Richard Sincere had 160 yards rushing and also caught a 40-yard highlight-reel touchdown pass off of a deflection. Torrance Williams rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns with a long of 56. Brian Bell also broke off a huge 54-yard touchdown run.
McGhee was 21 of 36 passing for 272 yards and one touchdown. The highlight of the day for the Bobcats was when McGhee threw a pass to senior Elvis Akpla who made an acrobatic catch over Dax Swanson. Akpla's catch was undoubtedly one of the plays of the year in college football.
Akpla finished the day with six catches and 100 yards receiving. The Bearkats won't have to worry about covering him this year though as he was senior in 2011.
The Bearkat special teams and defense were equally impressive. The Bearkats blocked a field goal to keep the score 21-6 at the end of the first half. In the third quarter, Brandon Closner returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown. The Bearkats also had an interception and fumble recovery in the game.
Last week, Montana State defeated Stony Brook 16-10 in the FCS Playoffs second round. The Bobcats grabbed an early lead and held on in the fourth quarter for the win. Their lone touchdown of the game came on a 69-yard touchdown pass from DeNarius McGhee to Tanner Bleskin.
Sam Houston defeated Cal Poly last week 18-16. The Mustangs and Bobcats shared the 2012 Big Sky Conference championship but did not play this season.
The all-time series between Sam Houston and Montana State is led by the Bearkats 3-2. The Kats defeated MSU 23-6 in 1986 in the first ever game at Bowers Stadium. In the 1991 season opener in Bozeman, SHSU was down 20-0 before rallying to win 26-23. Montana State won 52-48 in Bozeman in 1987 and 15-10 in Huntsville in 1989.
The quarterfinal game is set for Friday at 7 p.m. (Central time) on ESPN2. Click here for information on watch parties featured by the Sam Houston Alumni Association.