Week Three Southland Conference Schedule
Thursday, Sept. 13
Southeastern La. at Tennessee-Martin, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 15
Stephen F. Austin at Montana St., 2:35 p.m. (Big Sky TV)
Bacone at Central Arkansas, 6 p.m.
McNeese St. at Weber St., 6 p.m. (Big Sky TV)
Nicholls St. at Tulsa, 6 p.m.
Northwestern St. at Nevada, 6 p.m.
Sam Houston St. at Baylor, 6 p.m. (Fox College Sports)
Lamar at Hawaii, 11 p.m. (Root Sports Rocky Mtn.)
Southland in Week Three: Four Southland Conference teams will take on FBS opponents as Northwestern State is at Nevada, Lamar is at Hawaii, Nicholls State travels to Tulsa and Sam Houston State plays at Baylor.
Week Two Rewind: The Southland Conference was 5-3 in the second week of the season, including wins by Central Arkansas, Sam Houston State, Northwestern State, Lamar and McNeese State. Central Arkansas beat Murray State out of the Ohio Valley Conference 42-20 on the road while Lamar opened its home schedule with a 31-0 win over Prairie View A&M out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The other three wins came against non-Division I teams. Sam Houston State opened its season with a 54-7 win over future conference foe Incarnate Word. Northwestern State beat Arkansas-Monticello 31-24 and McNeese State walloped McMurry 69-7. Nicholls State lost 9-3 at South Alabama in its season opener, Southeastern lost to South Dakota State (31-14) and SMU defeated Stephen F. Austin 52-0.
Four Southland Teams Ranked in FCS Top 25 Polls: Sam Houston State is the Southland's top ranked team in the two primary FCS polls, checking it at No. 2 in both the Sports Network and FCS Coaches Poll this week. They had been the top-ranked team in the first two Sports Network polls, but fell a spot this week to North Dakota State, the team that beat them in last year's title game after the Bison beat Colorado 30-28 on Saturday. The Bearkats were 54-7 victors over Incarnate Word, which will begin its transition from Division II into the Southland in 2013. McNeese State is up to No. 19 in both polls after its 69-7 win over McMurry. Stephen F. Austin retained a ranking in the Sports Network poll at No. 23 despite its loss at SMU on Saturday. Central Arkansas is No. 20 in the coaches' poll, but shockingly fell out of the Sports Network poll after a 42-20 road win over Murray State when it was No. 25 in the poll last week.
Southland vs. the FBS: The Southland Conference plays four more teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) in week three. The league opened the season with its 18th win against the FBS since 2000 when McNeese State won 27-21 at Middle Tennessee Aug. 30. The Southland is 1-6 against FBS teams through the first two weeks of the season with four on the schedule for this Saturday. League teams will play 17 games against the FBS in 2012.
Southland Teams Streaking: McNeese State has the longest win streak in the Southland Conference having won its last five games. The Cowboys finished the 2011 season with wins in its last three games before opening the current campaign with wins at Middle Tennessee and home against McMurry. Sam Houston State finished a perfect 7-0 in league play last year and carries a nine-game win streak in conference games dating back to the 2010 season. The Bearkats won 16 consecutive games, including the first 14 games last year before losing the national championship game to North Dakota State. Central Arkansas also has a conference win streak. After falling to Sam Houston in the conference opener last September, the Bears rattled off six consecutive league wins to earn an at-large berth in the Division I playoffs. Sam Houston State and Central Arkansas meet Sept. 22 in Conway, Ark.
Non-Traditional Scoring: Southland Conference teams have found several different ways to find the end zone this season. Last week, the league scored on two punt returns, four interception returns and added a fumble return. Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State scored on punt returns, while McNeese State and Northwestern State both returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns. Southeastern Louisiana scored on a fumble return. Stephen F. Austin had a fumble return for a touchdown in its opener Aug. 31 against Southwest Oklahoma State. McNeese State safety Chris Raggett set a single-game McNeese State record while tying an NCAA record in returning two interceptions for touchdowns in the Cowboys' 69-7 win over McMurry. His returns covered 41 and 30 yards. His two interceptions also tied a McNeese single-season school record.
Player, School vs. Opponent
Jesse Grandy, Central Arkansas at Murray State, Sept. 8
Terrance Robinson, Sam Houston State vs. Incarnate Word, Sept. 8
Cortez Paige, Northwestern State vs. Arkansas-Monticello, Sept. 8
Chris Raggett, McNeese State vs. McMurry, Sept. 8
Chris Raggett, McNeese State vs. McMurry, Sept. 8
Imoan Claiborne, Northwestern State vs. Arkansas-Monticello, Sept. 8
Marvin Gray, Stephen F. Austin vs. Southwestern Oklahoma State, Aug. 31
T'Darryl Grays, Southeastern Louisiana vs. South Dakota State, Sept. 8
Frisco Remains the Goal: If the first two national championship games in Frisco are any indication, the 2013 championship will be another great game. The destination remains the goal for every team in the Football Championship Subdivision. The championships won in Frisco have been the first for both champions, including Eastern Washington in the 2011 game and North Dakota State last year. The league can draw a little motivation from 2011 Southland champion Sam Houston State, which lost to the Bison at FC Dallas Stadium last January. Opponents will have their work cut out for them, however, with the Bearkats bringing back 19 starters that came up just short from finishing a perfect 15-0 and winning its first national championship.
Southland Had One of Its Best Seasons in 2011: The 2011 season was one of the best in Southland history with two teams reaching the postseason, not to mention a run at the national championship by Sam Houston State. The Bearkats won 14 games last season before falling 17-6 to North Dakota State in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Central Arkansas was also in the playoffs, reaching the postseason at the Division I level for the first time in just its second season of postseason eligibility.
Magical Playoff Run for Bearkats: Sam Houston State came out of the regular-season unscathed with a perfect 11-0 record to earn the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division I Football Championship. The Bearkats received a first-round bye in the playoffs, and opened their postseason Dec. 3 with a 34-27 win over Stony Brook. Sam Houston State followed with back-to-back wins over long-time Southland nemeses Montana State (49-13) and Montana (31-28 in a game that saw running back Tim Flanders rush for 287 yards) to become the first Southland team to play for a national championship since McNeese State in 2002. Overall, it was the seventh trip to the final game for a Southland team (1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1997 and 2002). Only Louisiana-Monroe in 1987 was able to deliver the league a Division I championship. The Bearkat win also ran their win streak to 16 games (dating back to the final two games of the 2010 season) before falling to North Dakota State in the national championship game. Sam Houston was making its fifth appearance in the Division I playoffs. It had reached the national semifinals in its previous playoff appearance in 2004. That came after a quarterfinal berth in 2001 and first-round appearances in 1986 and 1991.
Sam Houston State Reached 2011 Title Game: An unrelenting defense limited Sam Houston State to its lowest total offense and point total of the season ending the Bearkats' dream season as North Dakota State posted a 17-6 victory in the NCAA Division I National Championship Game Jan. 7, 2012. The Bison and the Bearkats both ended the season with 14-1 records but North Dakota State took home the trophy after a hard-fought battle at FC Dallas Stadium. Sam Houston was held to 95 yards rushing and 115 passing for a total offense output of 220 yards. The Bearkats came into the contest averaging 421.1 yards per game offensively. Running back Tim Flanders led the Bearkat offense with 21 carries for 84 yards as he set a Southland Conference record for most rushing yards in one season (1,642). He broke the former record of 1,593 yards set by Claude Mathis of Texas State in 1997.
Central Arkansas Made First Division I Playoff Appearance: Central Arkansas received an at-large berth into the Division I playoffs for the first time in school history in just its second year of eligibility. Not only did it make the playoffs, but they also won the first road playoff game by a Southland Conference team since 2004 when it opened with a 34-14 win at Tennessee Tech in the first round. A loss at Montana the next week ended the Bears season at 9-4 overall. UCA has won at least seven games in four of its last six seasons since making the move to Division I. UCA finished second in the Southland at 6-1, with the lone loss coming to Sam Houston State on the road. The Bears reeled off eight consecutive victories to earn their playoff berth.
Same Eight Football Teams in 2012: For the second consecutive season, the conference will feature the same eight football teams: Central Arkansas, Lamar, McNeese State, Nicholls State, Northwestern State, Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana and Stephen F. Austin. The league did undergo a transition during the offseason, gaining Oral Roberts University as a full-time member July 1 after losing three institutions - Texas-Arlington, Texas-San Antonio and Texas State in June. The Golden Eagles do not sponsor football.
Southland TV Entering Fifth Season: The Southland Conference Television Network will feature 11 live football telecasts during the 2012 season. All games will be carried on more than 20 affiliates across the regional network, including stations in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. This season for the first time the network will televise a pair of doubleheaders Oct. 27 and again Nov. 3. The final two Saturdays of the regular season have been designated as wild-card games. Those games will be announced 7-10 days in advance. The Southland Conference Television Network became a reality in 2008 and has broadcast more than 100 events during its first four years. The network earned a College Sports Media Award in 2009-10 for best live/game event in the collegiate division, following that up with an honorable mention in the professional division (2010-11) and a nomination in the collegiate division (2011-12). Plus, the network has captured five Telly awards.
Around the Southland
Central Arkansas: The Bears went on the road for the second consecutive week and unlike the opening week when the lost 49-27 at Ole Miss, they came away with a 42-20 victory over Murray State, an FCS team that competes in the Ohio Valley Conference ... in just his third start, QB Wynrick Smothers was named the conference offensive player of the week after throwing touchdown passes to five different receivers against Murray State.
Lamar: One week after being shut out 40-0 by Louisiana-Lafayette, the Cardinals shut out Prairie View A&M 31-0 and have now held opponents scoreless for six consecutive quarters ... after not playing a FBS school for the first two years after reinstating the program, Lamar will face its second in the first three games of the season when it plays at Hawaii Saturday at 11 p.m., CT.
McNeese State: The Cowboys improved to 2-0 on the year with a 69-7 win over McMurry last Saturday a week after a 27-21 road victory at Middle Tennessee, an FBS member of the Sun Belt Conference ... McNeese's 69 points against McMurry were the second most in school history ... everyone who dressed out played, including all four quarterbacks.
Nicholls State: The Colonels opened their season with a 9-3 loss at South Alabama last Saturday to fall to 21-20 all-time in season openers, that includes a 6-15 record on the road ... head coach Charlie Stubbs is 1-2 in season openers, with both losses coming against FBS teams (San Diego State in 2010 and South Alabama, 2012) ... the Colonels are 1-4 in games following a postponement or cancellation due to hurricanes.
Northwestern State: The Demons got their first win of the season with a 31-24 victory against Arkansas-Monticello in the home opener ... the win snapped a four-game losing streak dating back to last year, when it dropped its last three games to finish 5-6 ... Northwestern had two interception returns for scores against UAM.
Sam Houston State: The Bearkats opened the season with a 54-7 victory over Incarnate Word, a Division II team that will begin its transition into Division I when it joins the Southland Conference in July ... Sam Houston extended its home winning streak to 11 games ... Walter Payton Award candidate Tim Flanders, who became the Bearkats all-time leading rusher, upped his number of school records to 21 with his 16th 100-yard rushing performance ... he totaled 117 yards on 15 carries and scored two first-quarter touchdowns ... his backup, sophomore Keshawn Hill scored on runs of 11 and 27 yards ... Terrance Robinson, a transfer from Michigan, broke a punt return for a 60-yard touchdown ... the 88 yards allowed by the Bearkat defense was the fourth lowest total a Sam Houston defense has ever given up ... they limited the Cardinals to -46 yards rushing, but had only three sacks totaling 16 yards ... Sam Houston's crowd of 11,061 was the largest for an opening game at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium since the facility's first opening night in 1986 ... the Bearkats head to Waco on Saturday to take on Baylor, which has not played since a 59-24 win over SMU on Sept. 2 ... it will be the fourth meeting between the schools, which last met in 2010, a 34-3 win by Baylor, which is 3-0 all-time against Sam Houston ... for the Bearkats, it will be the first of two games against the FBS this season ... the other game comes in the regular-season finale at Texas A&M, which moved from the Big 12 to the SEC in July.
Southeastern Louisiana: The Lions' 31-14 loss to South Dakota State was Southeastern Louisiana's first loss in a home opener since resuming football in 2003 ... the Lions are now 9-1 in home openers during that span.
Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks had a six-game win streak snapped last Saturday with a 52-0 loss at SMU ... Stephen F. Austin still has a six-game win streak against non-FBS schools ... SFA won the last five games of the 2011 season and opened with a 49-14 victory over Southwestern Oklahoma State on Aug. 31.