Kats to battle Bison for trip to Frisco

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HUNTSVILLE – Game 13 – FCS Playoffs Semifinals
Friday, Dec. 15 • Fargo, N.D. • 7:00 p.m. • Fargodome (18,700)
No. 6 Sam Houston State (12-1, 8-1 SLC) at North Dakota State (12-1, 7-1 MVFC)
Live Stats • ESPN2 • @BearkatsFB on Twitter • SHSU Game Notes • NDSU Game Notes

Few teams know better than the Sam Houston State Bearkats that the road to an FCS national championship goes through North Dakota State, and the Kats will have their chance at the Bison on Friday in Fargo.

Sixth-seeded Sam Houston will take on second-seeded North Dakota State Friday at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2 at the Fargodome in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs with the winner earning a berth in the FCS Championship game to be played January 6 in Frisco, Texas.

Coach K.C. Keeler has his Bearkats in the FCS semifinals for the third time in his four years at the helm, while the Bison are looking to get back to Frisco after having their streak of five consecutive national titles snapped last year in the semifinals by eventual national champion James Madison.

The winner of Friday’s game will take on the winner of No. 1 JMU and No. 5 South Dakota State for the title, a game set to be played Saturday afternoon in Harrisonburg, Va.

The game will mark the fourth time the Kats have battled NDSU since 2011 with the Bison winning each time, including both the 2011 and 2012 FCS Championship games. The Bison also claimed a 35-3 win in the semifinals of the 2014 FCS playoffs.

Sam Houston continues to pace the FCS offenisvely, leading the nation in scoring and total offense; however, the Bison rank second behind the Kats in scoring (39.0 ppg) and also boast a defense that ranks second in scoring defense (12.3 ppg) and first in yards allowed (237.9 ypg). NDSU boasts a balanced offense, but leans heavier on the run where its 265.1 yards per game on the ground is the fifth best in the FCS.

Sam Houston State has a limited allotment of tickets available for football season ticket holders and Bearkat Champion members. Tickets will be $40 each plus processing fees and will be in the Sam Houston section.

Call the Athletic Ticket Office at (936) 294-1729 to purchase. All tickets will be picked up at the Sam Houston Will Call window in Fargo.

Saturday’s game will be aired live on ESPN2 and on the WatchESPN app with Dave Neal on play-by-play and Matt Stinchcomb providing color analysis. Neal also had the call of both the 2011 and 2012 FCS national championship games between NDSU and Sam Houston.

Fans can also listen live on KSAM 101.7 FM with Kooter Roberson and Brian Adams in the booth. Live stats are available to fans, in addition to live updates being provided by following @BearkatsFB on Twitter.

- K.C. Keeler would win his 221st career game. He is currently 16th all-time among FCS head coaches, 1 win ahead of Wofford’s Mike Ayers. Next up on the list is former Wagner head coach Walt Hameline who is 15th with 223 wins from 1981-2014.

- Sam Houston would get its first road win over a Missouri Valley Football Conference School since 2006. That year the Kats knocked off Missouri State, 20-17, on Sept. 23 in Springfield. The Kats are 1-3 all-time against the MVFC in the FCS playoffs after its second-round win over South Dakota. All 3 losses have come at the hands of North Dakota State, including the 2011 and 2012 FCS Championship games.

- Sam Houston would advance to its third FCS Championship game in its history, all coming since 2011. The game, held in Frisco, Texas, is hosted by the Southland Conference and the Kats are the only SLC school to qualify for the championship since the game made the move to the Lone Star State in 2010.

- The Kats would still be alive in its quest for the school’s first ever FCS national championship. Teams from the Southland Conference are officially 0-4 all-time in FCS Championship games with Sam Houston having gone twice, McNeese twice (1997 & 2002) and SFA officially vacating its national runner-up season in 1989.

- The Kats moved to 13-0 all-time in playoff games played in Huntsville. The Kats have played, and won, at least 1 home playoff game in each of the last 7 seasons.

- K.C. Keeler moved to 27-0 in his career in home playoff games. Between his stops at Rowan, Delaware and Sam Houston the Bearkat head man has never had his team drop a game on its home turf. His Bearkat squads are 6-0 in his 4 years at Bowers Stadium. He was 8-0 in home playoff games at Delaware and 13-0 at Rowan.

- Sam extended its win streak at Bowers Stadium to 20 games, setting a new mark for the second longest home win streak in school history. The streak is the longest current streak in the FCS with the last loss at Bowers coming to Lamar on Sept. 19, 2015 by a 49-46 score. Since the start of 2011, the Kats have been nearly perfect on the Bowers Stadium turf, having won 47 of their last 49 games in front of their home crowd overall. The current school record for consecutive home victories is 23 in a row that stretched from 2010 to 2014.

- Sam Houston got its first playoff win over a member of the Big South Conference. The Kats had not taken on a team from the Big South since a 30-14 win in the 2010 regular season over Gardner-Webb. They are now 3-0 all-time against the Big South with the other win coming at Gardner-Webb in 2008.

- Briscoe finished with 313 yards against KSU, giving him 4,714 passing yards for the year. That broke his own single-season school record in passing yards set in 2016.

- Corey Avery picked up another 129 rushing yards and a touchdown and now has 1,068 rushing yards for the season, the second time he has eclipsed 1,000 in his 3-year career. Already second in school history to Timothy Flanders in both career rushing yards and career rushing touchdowns, Avery now joins Flanders as the only 2 backs in Bearkat history with multiple seasons of 1,000 yards rushing.

- Sam Houston started off fast again, holding a 24-10 lead at the break over the Owls. That has not been an uncommon theme as Sam Houston has held an average lead of 29.8-15.8 at the break this year.

- Defensive lineman Chris Stewart had a huge game against Kennesaw, finishing with 15 total tackles and a pair of sacks, more than doubling his season high of 7 tackles this season.