UCA awaiting Kats on The Stripes

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Saturday, Sept. 30 • Conway, Ark. • 6:05 p.m. • First Security Field at Estes Stadium (9,000)
No. 3 Sam Houston State (3-0, 1-0 SLC) at No. 11 Central Arkansas (2-1, 1-0 SLC)
Live Stats • ESPN3 • @BearkatsFB on Twitter • Complete SHSU Game Notes

The early-season tests just keep on coming for the Bearkats.

Already with two wins over nationally-ranked opponents in its back pocket, No. 3 Sam Houston will go in search of a key road win on Saturday when it heads to First Security Field at Estes Stadium, aka The Stripes, for a high-profile matchup with No. 11 Central Arkansas.

The Kats made a statement on Saturday at Bowers Stadium with a 66-17 win over No. 23 Nicholls behind 147 yards receiving from Nathan Stewart and a dominating defensive performance that allowed just 164 yards to the Colonels through three quarters as the offense built up as much as a 56-point lead.

Saturday’s game will be aired on ESPN3 with availability on mobile devices through the WatchESPN app. Randy McIlvoy will have the call from Conway with Shea Walker on analysis. Meanwhile, Tatum Everett will have all of the coverage from the sidelines.

Fans can also listen in on KSAM 101.7 FM with Kooter Roberson and E.P. Garth on the call and Brian Adams on the sidelines. Updates can also be found by following @BearaktsFB on Twitter.

Since UCA joined the Southland in 2007, the Bears and Bearkats each rank among the top 3 among all Southland teams in winning percentage in that span. This year the Bears are off to another good start under head coach Steve Campbell, falling in the opener to Kansas State before blasting both Murray State and Southeastern Louisiana in consecutive weeks.

The Bears held Southeastern to just 279 yards of total offense in a 38-6 win on The Stripes, but will be taking on Sam Houston this week following its bye week.

All-SLC quarterback Hayden Hildebrand has efficiently operated the UCA offense so far, averaging 247.7 yards per game through the air while completing a league-best 73.8 percent of his passes. UCA is averaging 212.3 yards per game on the ground, but does not sport a back with more than Carlos Blackman’s 65.0 yards per contest.

For the Kats, they clicked on all cylinders against the Colonels, racking up 619 yards of offense while holding Nicholls to just 307 in finishing with its largest margin of victory against a ranked opponent in school history.

Quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe will be looking to add another record to his resume on Saturday as he enters the game just three touchdown passes shy of tying Brian Bell’s school record of 84. If last year is any indication, he will have a great chance to get there as he threw for seven scores in just three quarters of work in last season’s 59-23 win in Huntsville. He has thrown for at least three touchdowns in 17 of his last 19 games dating back to 2015.

Behind Briscoe the Kats’ offense has been purring, averaging a balanced 574 yards and 52.7 points per game. Sam Houston is without a rusher to have reached the 100-yard mark through three games for the first time since 2006, but is still averaging 219.7 yards per game on the ground, led by 68.0 yards per game from Remus Bulmer and 54.7 yards per game from Corey Avery.

Defensively, Sam Houston got a big boost from the return of P.J. Hall on Saturday, turning in its best defensive performance since 2015. Hall had a sack and already holds the SHSU record for career sacks; however, he is closing in on the Southland Conference record of 38.0 sacks as well.

The Bearkats’ win in Huntsville snapped a 5-5 tie in the all-time series with the Bears, giving Sam Houston a narrow 6-5 advantage going into Saturday. Sam Houston has won each of the last three meetings between the teams and will be looking to establish the first four-game win streak between the teams. Saturday will also mark the third consecutive season the teams have faced off with both being ranked in the FCS top 25.

- K.C. Keeler would win his 212th career game. He is currently in a tie with Wofford’s Mike Ayers for 17th in all-time wins among FCS head coaches. Next on the all-time list is former SHSU head coach Ron Randleman, who sits 16th with 218 career wins.

- Sam would move to 4-0, giving it 4-0 starts in each of its last two seasons. The Kats have only started 4-0 in consecutive seasons once previously, and not since starting 5-0 in 1915 and 4-0 in 1916.

- Sam Houston would win its fourth game in a row against the Bears. The Kats have 6 all-time wins against UCA with a pair of 3-game win streaks making up that total. This will be the third consecutive season the Bears and Bearkats have met when both teams were ranked in the FCS top 25.

- Sam Houston would win its 72nd game since the beginning of the 2011 season. The Kats and North Dakota State are the only two teams in the FCS with 70 victories since the beginning of the 2011 campaign.

- The Kats would move to 27-20 in games in which both teams were ranked. They have won 10 of their last 14 games played with both teams ranked.

- The 49-point margin of victory was the largest for any Sam Houston team against a ranked opponent, besting the previous margin of 36 points which came on two occasions. That includes the most recent on Dec. 10, 2011, a 49-13 victory against No. 7 Montana State.

- Sam Houston allowed just 307 yards of total offense to the Colonels, including just 164 through the first three quarters of play in the win. Additionally, Nicholls was just 2-for-14 in third-down conversions, including coming up unsuccessful in their first nine tries. That is the least number of yards and the lowest third-down conversion percentage allowed by a Bearkat defensive unit since allowing just 171 yards and 2 of 17 third downs against Nicholls in 2015.

- Saturday was the sixth time under head coach K.C. Keeler that Sam Houston has scored 60+ points in a game, including the fourth time in the past two seasons. It was also the 12th time under Keeler that Sam Houston has amassed more than 600 yards of total offense.

- Jeremiah Briscoe threw for 305 yards and 3 TDs in the win against Nicholls, giving him his 15th 300-yard passing game of his career.

- With his 10-yard reception on the final drive of the first half, senior wide receiver Yedidiah Louis became the all-time leader in receptions in the history of the Southland Conference. He now has 230 catches for his career, breaking the old record of 229 set by Southeastern Louisiana’s Simmie Yarborough.

- P.J. Hall picked up a sack against the Colonels, the 37th of his Bearkat career. That broke a tie with Andre Hall for the most in the history of Bearkat Football, a mark that has stood since 1987.

- Adrian Contreras played in his 31st game of his career on Saturday against Nicholls, but his interception in the second quarter was the first of his career.

- The Kats got a big game from sophomore wide receiver Nathan Stewart as he finished with 7 catches for 147 yards and a pair of scores, an effort that won him SLC Offensive Player of the Week honors on Monday. He now has 15 touchdown catches in his career in just 16 games played.

- Official attendance for the game was 12,863 at Bowers Stadium. That mark is the second most ever for a home game at Sam Houston, bettered only by the 16,148 in attendance when the Kats hosted Steve McNair’s Alcorn State squad on Oct. 24, 1994.