Kats clinch playoff berth with win over EKU
HUNTSVILLE – Eric Schmid threw for 392 yards and three scores and the No. 1 Sam Houston Bearkats clinched a berth in the FCS Playoffs with a 42-28 win over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday at Bowers Stadium.
The Kats (9-0) clinched the automatic qualifier into the playoffs from the WAC/ASUN Challenge with the win over the Colonels (6-4), who could have taken the bid for themselves with a win over the reigning champs.
Fans are encouraged to contact the Bearkat Ticket Office to reserve their playoff tickets at 936-294-1729.
That is because an upset not to be in the first meeting between the schools as the Kats staked themselves to a 21-0 halftime lead and never truly felt threatened, doing most of their offensive damage this week through the air, one week after rushing for over 400 yards for the first time since 2013.
Schmid found Ife Adeyi three times in the first half for big plays, the third a 32-yard touchdown, and spread the ball around to six receivers. Adeyi finished with a season-high 138 yards on seven grabs, while Jequez Ezzard racked up 111 yards on nine grabs with a score.
Ramon Jefferson got in the end zone on the ground twice, and Cody Chrest rounded out the scoring with a touchdown and 81 yards receiving. It was Jefferson’s first score of the day, a 13-yard run just six minutes into the game, that got the Kats on top.
Ezzard and Adeyi each added second-quarter scores for that 21-0 edge. The Bearkat defense was also in tip-top shape early on, holding EKU to just 76 total yards in the first half, including -2 on the ground.
Trevor Williams finished with 11 total tackles and a pair of TFLs to lead the defensive effort, while Zyon McCollum added four stops and an interception, the 13th of his career to put him into a tie with Ronnie Choate for second all-time at SHSU, just one behind Dax Swanson’s program record of 14.
EKU tried to get back in it in the second half as quarterback Parker McKinney capped a 75-yard drive with a 10-yard run to cut the lead to 21-7; however, the Kats answered on the ensuing drive with a 26-yard pass from Schmid to Chrest and then another score from Jefferson to up the lead to 35-7 with jut 1:58 to play in the third quarter.
The Colonels made it interesting with a kickoff return touchdown by Davion Ross and a 28-yard pass from McKinney to Jaden Smith to get to within 35-21. But the Kats responded with another 75-yard drive that ended in a 4-yard run from Schmid to put it away.
McKinney finished with a nice day, accounting for three total scores and 338 passing yards in the game.
The Kats can finish out its second consecutive perfect regular season and the third since 2016 with a win next week at Abilene Christian. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. from Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium and will be aired on ESPN+.