Chance at glory

For the third year in a row, a Southland Conference title is on the line when Sam Houston State and Texas State-San Marcos meet in football this Saturday at 2 p.m. at Bowers Stadium

In 2004, the Bearkats defeated the Bobcats 27-9 in Huntsville to clinch an SLC co-championship with Northwestern State. Last year in San Marcos, the Bobcats had to go to ovetime to defeat SHSU 26-23 to earn a co-championship with Nicholls State. This Saturday, Sam Houston can earn its second Southland title in three years with a victory over the Bobcats.

Now, in 2006, if Sam Houston defeats the Bobcats Saturday, the Bearkats will be Southland champions for the second time in three years.

Sam Houston even has an outside shot at the NCAA Division I-AA national playoffs. If the Bearkats defeat Texas State-San Marcos and McNeese State downs Nicholls State Saturday, both are co-champions. By virtue of their 31-18 victory over the Bearkats, the Cowboys would earn the Southland Conference automatic NCAA playoff berth.

But, a Sam Houston victory combined with a McNeese loss gives the Bearkats the title by themselves and the league’s automatic playoff bid.

Sam Houston State and Texas State-San Marcos meet on the football field for the 86th time Saturday. The series, which begin in 1919, is the oldest in Texas between NCAA I-AA foes. The Bobcats hold a 48-33-4 edge all-time over Sam Houston.

In the pair’s TIAA and Lone Star Conference days (1919 to 1983), the university then known as Southwest Texas dominated the series with a 42-18-3 record vs. the Kats. Since the pair moved up to the NCAA level to compete in the Gulf Star and Southland Conferences (1984-present), Sam Houston State holds a 15-6-1 edge. Sam Houston is 18-19-3 against the Bobcats in Huntsville and 7-2-1 against the Bobcats in Bowers Stadium.

The top offensive weapon for Sam Houston State is running back D. D. Terry, the senior from Willis, who earned both national and Southland Conference honors for offensive player of the week last weekend. Terry is the leading rusher in the Southland Conference and ranks sixth nationally with 189 carries for 1,187 yards and 14 touchdowns. The 1,187 yards represents the most rushing yards ever in one season by a Bearkat back. Terry has five 100-plus yard games this season. His 278 yards Saturday at Southeastern Louisiana was the second best rushing day ever by a Bearkat and the sixth highest total in Southland history. Only four other running backs in Sam Houston history have had five or more 100-yard games in a single season:

Roger Wiley (6, 1982), Fred Reese (5, 1970), Curtis Thomas (5, 1990), and Charles Harris (5, 1993). Terry played linebacker as a sophomore and a junior after transferring from Kilgore Junior College and did not move to running back until preseason camp in August. He also is a sprinter on SHSU’s two-time Southland champion track team, running on the Bearkats’ 4×100 and 4×400 relays that won SLC titles last spring. Terry has been added to the “Watch List” for the 2006 Walter Peyton Award by Sports Network.

Senior punt and kickoff return specialist Derrick Harris gives Sam Houston another big play threat. Harris broke a school record established in 1974 against Central Arkansas, returning a punt 90 yards for a touchdown. The previous school record long put return was 87 yards by Mike Nelms against Sul Ross. Harris has returned 12 punts for 249 yards this year, an average of 20.8 yards per return. He has 21 kickoff returns for 462 yards (22.0 average) including two 50 yard returns and a 40-yard runback.

Bearkat Head Coach Todd Whitten credits Sam Houston’s success this season to strong senior leadership. Last year’s 2005 Bearkat squad that finished 3-7 had only 11 seniors on the team and 24 of the players on the 44-man two deep were freshmen and sophomores. But the 2006 squad features 17 seniors and 23 juniors, each of whom are making important contributions.

Senior leadership has been a key on defense with senior starters including ends Ed Jackson and Aaron Ivey, tackle Brandon Villanueva, cornerbacks Derrick Harris, Tony Jones, and Scorpio Babers, and safeties Braylon Linnear, and Chadd Oliphant. Several younger players also have made an impact including redshirt freshman linebacker Luke McCall, sophomore defensive lineman Eric Mikolajchak, and junior Patrick Robinson.

Saturday, 16 Bearkat seniors will be honored before the game on 2006 SHSU senior day.

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