Ready for a challenge

The Sam Houston State Bearkats face the toughest test of the season as the team plays host to the second ranked team in the nation, the McNeese State Cowboys, at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bowers Stadium.Sam Houston (3-4, 1-1) has plenty of momentum heading into the Homecoming game after a big win against rival Stephen F. Austin and has found its way right back in the conference championship race. “This is a good chance for us to beat a team that is ranked so highly in some polls,” Bearkat linebacker T.J. Dibble said. “We played real well last week, and we are trying to use that as a building block for this week.”The Cowboys (5-1, 1-0) were able to come away with a close win against Jacksonville State last weekend and share the top spot in the conference along with Northwestern State at 1-0. McNeese State has only one lose on the season and that came against Division I foe Nebraska. “They are a talented football team,” Ron Randleman, SHSU head coach said. “They have an awesome defense and are very talented up front, very talented at linebacker, and they have very good corners and safeties.”McNeese State only allowed 219 total yards to Jacksonville State and is only giving up an average of 20 points a game. The Bearkats will have to contain the conference’s second-leading rusher in Cowboy’s running back Vic King. King ran all over Jacksonville State, amassing 208-yards on 25 carries.The Bearkats were able to get the rushing game going for the second week in a row against SFA and Randleman hopes it will continue to get better.”If you play hard enough, for long enough, good things happen,” Randleman said. “The thing that has helped us the last two weeks, has been that we have been able to run the ball and we are going to have to run it a bit this week. It’s not going to be easy.”Sam Houston has struggled in the past against McNeese State, with the Cowboys leading the overall series 16-6-1. The Bearkats have dropped three of the last four contests against McNeese, including the team’s only conference loss last season. The Cowboys and the Bearkats were co-conference champions in 2001.Sam Houston is undefeated at home this season and has not lost a game at Bowers Stadium since the final game of the 2000 season. A win on Saturday will give the Bearkats an opportunity to show the rest of the conference that they are still the team to beat. “The game last week showed some people that just because of our record, it doesn’t really show how well we played at times this season,” Dibble said. “We have talked about playing a complete game and I think we got closer last week. We played our best game as a team.”

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