Saturday was a big day for a lot of people here at Sam Houston State. A new Homecoming King and Queen were crowned Saturday and Bearkat head coach Ron Randleman achieved his 200th career victory as SHSU won big over conference rival Jacksonville State 55-30 at Bowers Stadium.
“It’s always good to win at Homecoming because there are always people back to see the team that might only get to see us once a year,” said Randleman.
The win leaves the Bearkats tied for first in the Southland Conference with Stephen F. Austin State with a 4-1 record. McNeese State is close behind with a conference record of 3-1. The Bearkats are a perfect 5-0 on the season at Bowers Stadium.
Saturday’s game started out well with the Bearkats taking their first drive and scoring on a Joey Price field goal. But Jacksonville State would go on and score the next two touchdowns to take the lead 14-3. Gamecock running back Rondy Rogers was giving the Bearkat defense fits early on.
“Coach Lucas handles all of the defensive adjustments, and he made a few adjustments,” Randleman said . “You get a lot of energy early in a ball game and sometimes things don’t go well, but you have to stay calm and everything is going to be alright.”
It did not take long for the Bearkats to rebound.
Late in the first quarter, the Josh McCown led offense marched 76 yards in seven plays to bring the Bearkats back into the game.
The Bearkat defensive line had their way up front. They sacked Gamecock quarterback Reggie Stancil five times throughout the game. It seemed that Stancil was running for his life all day long.
“I felt real good about how we matched up on both sides of the ball on the line,” Randleman said. “Our defensive line, I thought, did a great job against their offensive line.”
The Bearkat offense was nothing short of spectacular gaining 594 total yards. McCown continued to display his talent and poise, finishing the game completing 20 passes of 33 attempts for 340 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception.
McCown’s favorite target, wide receiver Jonathon Cooper, had an outstanding day also. Cooper caught eight balls for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Back to back drives saw McCown hook up with Cooper for touchdown strikes.
The first was a 55-yard bomb and the other was a 46-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive.
“I give a lot of credit to our offensive line,” Randleman said. “It was apparent that we were getting a lot of time to throw the football, and when you give Josh, a lot of time he can throw it.”
The Gamecocks were no match for the onslaught that is Bearkat football. The Bearkats just flat out wore the Gamecocks down on both sides of the ball.
Coach Randleman said he thought his team was in better shape than their opponent was and that they played harder longer.
It was a complete package that the Bearkats put on the field Saturday.
Bearkat running back Joe Rauls had his best game of the season against the Gamecocks rushing for 121 yards on 8 carries with a 65-yard breakaway for a touchdown.
“Joe had a touchdown running, a touchdown receiving and a two-point play, and we’re glad to see that because Joe is such a good player and does so many little things that help us be a better football team,” said Randleman. “One thing about Joe is that he is running so strong and on a draw play he breaks a couple of tackles and he is gone. It is always good to get some long ones, and I believe that’s our longest run from scrimmage this season.”
The Bearkat defense was solid and did their part to ensure a Bearkat victory. They kept the Gamecock offense off balance for most of the game.
The defense held Stancil to just nine completions on 28 attempts. Stancil was also picked off twice by the Bearkats. SHSU’s P.J. Traylor made a huge play when he intercepted a Stancil pass and returned it for a Bearkat touchdown in the second half.
“Everything feeds off of everything,” said Randleman. “If you’ll notice our defense always plays better when the offense is moving the ball and vice versa. It all goes together.”
Randleman said his goal all year long has been to get this team poised for a run at the conference championship, and with one game left his goal could become a reality.
“Our guys have worked very, very hard. We have had terrific senior leadership all year,” Randleman said. “Those guys deserve to get a championship, and we are going to have to play well to go get one.”
Saturday the Bearkats will travel to San Marcos to take on conference rival Southwest Texas State for the final game of the regular SLC season.
Southwest is winless in conference play, but Randleman said he is not letting that fact relax his team.
“We are going to have to play a good solid game,” Randleman said. “They are a good football team that was ranked very high early in the season, and they beat some good teams early. It’s a good rivalry game, and they’re going to give us their best shot, and we have got to get over there and get ready to really get after them.”