Sam Houston loses Conference USA opener to Jacksonville State in overtime 35-28

Highlights: Sam Houston falls to Jacksonville State in OT
Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 11:33 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- Jacksonville State scored the tying touchdown and two-point conversion with 13 seconds left in regulation then took only two plays to score the game-winning touchdown in overtime to hand Sam Houston a 35-28 loss at Bowers Stadium in the Conference USA opener on Thursday.

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It was the first time since Oct. 12, 2019 against Lamar the Bearkats went to overtime. The Cardinals came away with a 20-17 victory in Huntsville. Quarterback Keegan Shoemaker threw for a season-high 284 yards and two touchdowns,

Trapper Pannell added a pair of scoring runs, and running back John Gentry and wideout Noah Smith had scoring receptions to help Sam Houston improve to 1-3 on the season.

The offense got off to a sluggish start, but once the Bearkats got rolling they put some points on the board in a hurry. The Gamecocks struck first when Malik Jackson ripped off a 26-yard touchdown run with just under 10 minutes left in the first quarter.

Sam Houston didn’t take long to answer. On the ensuing drive, Shoemaker connected with Gentry for a 56-yard touchdown pass, the Bearkats’ longest play of the season. The defense continued to shutdown Jax State, and the offense provided the backup. Shoemaker hit Smith for a 22-yard touchdown pass with 1:37 to go in the first quarter following Sam Houston’s first takeaway of the season, an interception by Da’Marcus Crosby II.

Pannell made it 21-7 with a three-yard scoring run at the 10:20 mark of the second. The Gamecocks answered with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Logan Smothers to Michael Pettway in the third quarter.

An interception set up Jax State’s other score, a 16-yard run by Smothers, but kicker Alen Karajic hit the left upright on the PAT to keep the Kats in front 21-20. Akeem “Meatball” Smith appeared to help Sam Houston put the game on ice when he forced a fumble on a strip sack to give the Kats the ball at JSU 20-yard line.

A few plays later Pannell punched it in from a yard out to make it 28-20 with 1:11 left in the game.

Jax State quickly drove down the field to tie the game with 13 seconds remaining on a 28-yard touchdown pass by Smothers who also threw for the two-point conversion.

The Bearkats (0-4) will look to rebound next Thursday as they travel to Lynchburg, Virginia, to take on Liberty.