Kats eyeing 2-0 SLC start at McNeese

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HUNTSVILLE – Game 5
Saturday, Sept. 28 • Lake Charles, La. • 6:05 p.m. CT • Cowboy Stadium (17,610)
Sam Houston State (2-2, 1-0 Southland) at McNeese (2-2, 0-1 Southland)
Live Stats • ESPN+ • KSAM 101.7 FM
@BearkatsFB on Twitter • SHSU Game Notes • McNeese Game Notes

The Sam Houston State Bearkats will make their first trek to Lake Charles since 2015 on Saturday when they try to move to 2-0 in Southland Conference play against the McNeese Cowboys at Cowboy Stadium.

The game will air live in the and can be viewed on ESPN+. Randy McIlvoy will be on the call, in addition to Shea Walker providing color commentary and Taylor Verrico on the sidelines.

It can also be heard locally on KSAM 101.7 FM with Rob Hipp and Brian Adams in the booth bringing the action over the airwaves.

Fans are also encouraged to follow @BearkatsFB and @BearkatSports on Twitter and Instagram for updates and behind-the-scenes looks throughout the weekend and the 2019 season.

QUICK HITTERS
- Sam Houston enters Saturday ranked 15th in the FCS and leading the Southland in rushing defense (91.8 ypg).

- Defensively the Kats are also holding firm on third down, ranking third in the nation in opponent’s third-down conversions, allowing just 13 for 65 (20.0 percent).

- Sam Houston State entered 2019 having posted a winning season in each of the past 9 years, not having a sub-.500 season since the 2009 team went 5-6. The streak is the longest in school history, with the next most being 5 years in a row from 1952-56 under Paul Pierce.

- Currently, Jacksonville State holds the most consecutive years with a winning season in all of the FCS, entering 2019 with 16 straight (last losing season in 2002), while Eastern Washington has 12 (last losing season in 2006) and North Dakota State also has 9 (last losing season in 2009).

- Sam Houston State has 94 wins in the 2010s decade, which is second only to North Dakota State’s 125 wins in the FCS ranks. Eastern Washington (91) and Jacksonville State (88) are the next 2 on the list.

- Senior wide receiver Nathan Stewart is 1 of just 4 players in FCS history to reach 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman, sophomore and junior. Should he reach 1,000 receiving yards again in 2019 he would join Terrell Hudgins (Elon) and Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington) as the only players in FCS history to do so in 4 straight years. Through 4 games in 2019 he has 295 yards receiving on 21 catches.

- Stewart reached a pair of milestones in the win over UIW on Saturday when he caught 9 passes for 187 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was the 17th 100-yard receiving game of his career and surged him past former teammate Yedidiah Louis for the SLC’s all-time record in career receiving yards. He is also the first ever SLC player and the 20th in FCS history to surpass 4,000 yards receiving for his career.

- Eric Schmid got the nod as the Bearkat starting quarterback vs UIW and responded in record fashion. The redshirt sophomore threw for 531 yards and 5 TDs in the win, earning Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors in the process. The 531 yards passing is the second most in the FCS this season and the second most in SHSU history only to Dustin Long’s 577 yards vs McNeese in 2004.

- The Kats rolled up 604 yards of offense vs UIW, its most in a game since 708 yards vs South Dakota in the 2017 FCS Playoffs. It is the 17th time in school history to surpass 600 yards with 13 of those games coming in the K.C. Keeler era (since 2014).

WITH A BEARKAT WIN ...

- K.C. Keeler would win his 229th career game. He is currently 15th all-time among FCS head coaches, 8 wins ahead of former Wofford coach Mike Ayers and former SHSU coach Ron Randleman. He is 1 win behind former Ohio State and Youngstown State head coach Jim Tressell for 14th all-time among coaches who spent at least 10 years at FCS schools. Keeler’s 228 victories are the second most among active coaches in the FCS behind only Al Bagnoli of Columbia.

- Keeler would win his 55th game as head coach of the Bearkats and would be 3 wins behind former Lamar head coach Vernon Glass for seventh all-time among Southland Conference coaches. It would also move him into sole possession of third place in coaching wins all-time at SHSU, breaking a tie with former SHSU head coach J.W. Jones.

- The Kats would post its second third straight win over McNeese in the series, which they have never done. They have defeated the Cowboys twice in a row on three occasions in the series history, which dates back to 1951. In fact, should the Kats come away with a win in The Hole on Saturday, it would mark the first time they won in consecutive trips to Lake Charles since winning there in 1958 and 1970.

- The Kats would move to 2-0 in Southland Conference play for the 10th time in program history and the first time since 2016.

LEFTOVERS FROM A 45-6 WIN OVER UIW

- The Kats avoided dropping back-to-back games for the third time in the last 2 seasons. Prior to last year the Kats had not dropped consecutive games since 2015 and had not dropped back-to-back game against FCS opponents since 2013.

- Sam Houston moved to 17-17-1 in Southland Conference openers. The Kats have won 8 of their last 11 league openers dating back to 2009.

- The Kats forced 3 turnovers in the win, including a pair of interceptions by junior cornerbacks Jaylen Thomas and Zyon McCollum. For Thomas, it was his first of the year and the fourth of his career. For McCollum, It was the third interception in as many weeks and the ninth of his career, putting him in a tie for seventh all-time at SHSU with Charles Stanley and 1 behind Charles Boyce’s 10 picks for sixth all-time. Dax Swanson holds the Bearkat record with 14 interceptions in his career from 2009-2012.

- Nathan Stewart finished with 9 catches for 187 yards and 3 touchdowns. In addition to breaking the SLC and SHSU records for receiving yards, he also reached 200 career catches to become the fourth Bearkat and ninth player in SLC history to reach that milestone. In fact, he broke the SLC receiving record on his 200th career catch, a 44-yard catch from Schmid on 3rd & 20 in the second quarter.

- FUN FACT: Stewart set the SLC record for receiving yards 6 years to the day after former Bearkat Timothy Flanders set the SLC rushing record. Both of those were done on Sept. 21, (Stewart in 2019, Flanders in 2013) and were at Bowers Stadium vs UIW.

- The Kats were close to pitching their first shutout in Southland Conference play since a 76-0 win over HBU in 2014. The Cardinals did not get their first points until 2:28 remaining in the game after a 1-yard run by Kaleb Ducros on fourth down after UIW got the ball on the Bearkat 30-yard line following a fumble.

- The SHSU defense was after Cardinal quarterback Jon Copeland all night, getting to him for 4.0 sacks as part of 12.0 TFLs for the game.

THE LAST TIME THE KATS FACED McNEESE

- The Bearkats and Cowboys have not faced off since a shootout in 2016 at Bowers Stadium that ended in a 56-43 Bearkat win. It was the second straight win for SHSU over McNeese after the Kats upset the ranked Cowboys in the FCS playoffs in 2015.

- Then freshman wide receiver Nathan Stewart had already burst on the scene that year, but he immediately etched his name in the record books that night when he set a Southland Conference single-game record with 268 receiving yards to go with his first 3-TD game of his career.

- Jeremiah Briscoe threw 6 TDs in the game, hitting 29 of his 44 passing attempts for 504 yards in the air. His sixth TD of the night was his 40th of the season, breaking Dustin Long’s 2004 single-season record at SHSU of 39 passing TDs. Briscoe would go on to throw an FCS single-season record 57 touchdowns that year on his way to winning the first of consecutive Walter Payton Awards.

- The Kats finished with 630 yards of offense that night, while the Cowboys had 574 of their own behind James Tabary’s big passing night of 357 yards and 5 TDs. Still, the Kats registered a defensive milestone of their own as PJ Hall had 4 sacks to tie an SHSU single-game record, ending the game with 5.0 TFLs and a forced fumble.

- SHSU was in control at the half, up 28-9, and still led 49-30 entering the fourth quarter. But consecutive scores by the Cowboys cut the lead down to 49-43 with less than 7:00 to play; however, the Kats responded with a 4-play, 81-yard scoring drive that ended in a 2-yard run by Ragan Henderson that proved to ice the game.