Kats ready for Piney Woods rivalry

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Saturday, Oct. 5 • Houston • 3:05 p.m. CT • NRG Stadium (72,220)
Sam Houston State (3-2, 2-0 Southland) vs Stephen F. Austin (1-4, 0-2 Southland)
Live Stats • ESPN+ • KSAM 101.7 FM
@BearkatsFB on Twitter • SHSU Game Notes • SFA Game Notes

One of the oldest college football rivalries in all of Texas will be renewed for the 94th time on Saturday when Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin square off in the Battle of the Piney Woods, presented by H-E-B, at NRG Stadium.

The Bearkats go into NRG Stadium as winners of their last two games in a row, most recently a 28-17 road win at McNeese on Saturday. The Kats have won the last eight games in the rivalry with the ‘Jacks, who are under the direction of first-year head coach Colby Carthel and are coming off their first win of the season on Saturday at Lamar.

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

It can also be heard locally on KSAM 101.7 FM with Rob Hipp and Brian Adams in the booth and Dave Fanucchi on the sidelines 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.

- Sam Houston enters Saturday ranked ninth in the FCS and leading the Southland in rushing defense (81.0 ypg).

- Defensively the Kats are also holding firm on third down, ranking first in the nation in opponent’s third-down conversions, allowing just 17 for 80 (21.3 percent).

- The Kats’ defense has been a true team effort as no player ranks in the top 25 in the entire SLC in total tackles. Senior safety is the only player on the team to average 5.0 tackles per game.

- As a team the Kats are second in the FCS with an average of 10.0 TFLs per game. But they are not even first in the SLC in that category as Southeastern Louisiana (10.5 TFL per game) leads the FCS. Additionally, HBU is also tied with the Kats with an average of 10.0 per game.

- The Kats are 1 of 11 teams in the FCS to have scored multiple defensive TDs in 2019. Zyon McCollum and Will Lockett each scored TDs vs OPSU.

- 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 95 wins in the 2010s decade, which is second only to North Dakota State’s 125 wins in the FCS ranks. Eastern Washington (92) 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 452 yards receiving on 27 catches.

- Stewart reached a pair of milestones in the win over UIW 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.


- K.C. Keeler would win his 230th career game. He is currently tied for 14th all-time among FCS head coaches with former Ohio State and Youngstown State head coach Jim Tressell among coaches who spent at least 10 years at FCS schools. Keeler’s 229 victories are the second most among active coaches in the FCS behind only Al Bagnoli of Columbia.

- Keeler would win his 56th game as head coach of the Bearkats and would be 2 wins behind former Lamar head coach Vernon Glass for seventh all-time among Southland Conference coaches. The win at McNeese moved 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 win their ninth in a row in the Battle of the Piney Woods, which is the longest streak by either team in the series’ history. The last loss came in 2010, the first game played at NRG Stadium, by a 31-28 score.

- The Kats would move to 3-0 in Southland Conference play for the seventh time in school history and the first time since 2016.

- SHSU would stay in first place in the SLC standings. They enter Week 6 with Southeastern Louisiana as the only teams without a league loss.


- SHSU trailed 17-15 before scoring 13 points in just 1:35 of the fourth quarter to pull out the win.

- The Kats took the lead in the fourth quarter on the strength of an 18-play, 73-yard drive that lasted 7:32 and ended in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Ty Brock to Chandler Harvin. The 18-play scoring drive was the longest scoring drive by the Kats since an 18-play, 60-yard drive that lasted 9:25 and ended in a Steven Hicks 2-yard TD run in a 44-10 win over Northwestern State in 2013.

- It was the third straight win in the series for the Kats, a feat which they have never accomplished previously. They had defeated the Cowboys twice in a row on 3 occasions in the series history, which dates back to 1951. In fact, the Kats’ win in The Hole on Saturday marked the first time they won in consecutive trips to Lake Charles since winning there in 1958 and 1970.

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

- K.C. Keeler moved to 4-1 in his career as Bearkat head coach vs McNeese.

- In 2 career games vs McNeese (2016 and 2019), Nathan Stewart has racked up 15 catches for 425 yards and 4 touchdowns receiving.

- The Kats held McNeese to just 111 yards of total offense in the second half with 41 of that coming on the Cowboys’ final drive.

- The Kats forced their only turnovers of the game in the second half, late in the game on interceptions by Dwayne Williams and Ke’Shon Murray. They were the first career interceptions for each player.

- Ty Brock was 8-for-13 passing for 147 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half of the game.

- Kyran Jackson finished with 111 yards on the ground and a TD. It was his third career 100-yard rushing game and the first since he did so vs Northwestern State in 2018.


- Sam Houston won its eighth consecutive Battle of the Piney Woods with a 54-21 win in 2018, extending the longest win streak by either team in the history of the rivalry. The Kats trailed 14-7 midway through the first quarter before exploding for 47 unanswered points to go up 54-14.

- Ty Brock rushed, threw and received a touchdown in the win over the ‘Jacks. He became the first Bearkat to accomplish the feat in a single game. The last Bearkat to have a rush, pass and receiving touchdown in a season (not just a single game) was Guido Merkens, whose son Matthew, serves as a volunteer assistant on the Bearkat coaching staff.

- Along with Brock, Mike Dare and Eric Schmid also threw touchdown passes against the ‘Jacks, marking the first time the Kats have ever had 3 quarterbacks throw a TD in the same game.

- In all, SHSU ran up 500 yards off total offense while holding SFA to 298. It was the second consecutive year the Kats have held the ‘Jacks to less than 300 yards of total offense. The Kats finished with 12.0 TFLs and 6.0 sacks in the game.

- DJ Curtis picked off SFA quarterback Foster Sawyer a pair of times, including a pick-six in the second quarter that gave the Kats the lead for good. It was the first pick-six for the Kats since Darion Flowers had a 90-yard pick-six at McNeese in 2015. Curtis was also the first Bearkat to have multiple interceptions in a game since Mikell Everett had 2 vs Central Arkansas in 2015.

- The 44 points in the first half by SHSU was the highest point total in a half in the 93-year history of the Battle of the Piney Woods.


- Since 1923, Sam Houston and SFA have competed together in three conferences – the Lone Star, Gulf Star and (since 1987) the Southland.

- This year’s matchup marks the 10th time the Battle of the Piney Woods has been held in Houston and the ninth straight year it has been at NRG Stadium. The Kats and the Jacks battled to a 14-14 tie in the Astrodome in 1976.

- This year’s Sam Houston vs. Stephen F. Austin meeting marks the 94th renewal of the Battle of the Piney Woods, making the game the fourth oldest continuous college football rivalry in Texas. The only active rivalries that have been going on longer than SHSU/SFA are Baylor/TCU (114 games), Texas/Baylor (108 games) and TCU/SMU (99 games).

- During the 1930s, The Battle of the Piney Woods was an annual Thanksgiving Day event.


- The Bearkats versus Lumberjacks series dates back to 1923. Sam Houston holds a 56-35-2 edge in the series with a pair of ties. The Kats have won 8 straight, which is the longest win streak in the series by either team.

- The matchup has been played at NRG Stadium each of the past 9 years with the 2016 game, a 63-28 SHSU win, setting a record crowd with 27,411 fans at NRG Stadium.

- Since 2007, the winner of the Battle of the Piney Woods has earned a 21-pound solid cedar trophy that displays replica pistols from Texas’ frontier past. The logos from both universities are engraved on the handle of the pistols above name plates that will display the outcomes of the contest for the next two decades.

- The 94th Battle of the Piney Woods presented by H-E-B again will be one of the top FCS games of the 2019 season. Nine of the past 10 game winners has gone on to advance to the NCAA postseason playoffs. Six of the last 10 years, the winner of the rivalry game has emerged as champion of the Southland Conference.

- Since 1986, one team has come into the Piney Woods game in the FCS top 25 and the other not ranked 17 times. Six of those games, the unranked team won.