The Bearkats traveled 1,257 miles to Fargo to face their highest-marquee Football Championship Subdivision opponent in the No. 5 ranked North Dakota State Bison and nearly pulled off the huge upset in the Fargodome.
But the Bison came through and scored the game-winning touchdown with seven seconds remaining on the clock to defeat the Kats 41-38, dashing any upset hopes.
“It was certainly a tough loss for us,” Sam Houston State University head coach Todd Whitten said. “We played so well and played so hard. To lose in the end like that was really a heartbreaker, but I’m proud of the guys. I thought they played hard. We were on the road and played pretty well. I’m proud of the way the guys performed.”
The Bearkats entered the fourth quarter trailing the Bison 34-21 before mounting an impressive comeback.
On a first-and-10 from Sam Houston State’s own 45-yard line, Bomar connected with Justin Wells for a 55-yard touchdown strike to put the Kats within range at 34-28.
The Bearkats inched even closer to the lead after Taylor Wilkins made a 32-yard field goal, bringing the score to 34-31 with just under five minutes remaining.
The defense stepped up and made two big stops on third and fourth down on the next possession, forcing the Bison to punt.
On the ensuing possession, Bomar led the Kats down the field picking apart the Bison secondary on a 64-yard, nine-play possession, soaking up over two minutes of the clock, capped off by a 7-yard pass to Darnell Jones in the end zone putting the Bearkats ahead 38-34 with only 26 seconds remaining.
This comeback had shades of the 2004 quarterfinal game against Eastern Washington. The Bearkats came from behind 20 points in the fourth quarter to win that game as time expired to advance to the national semifinals.
It appeared as if this game would be yet another incredible comeback for the Kats. It turned out not to be the case, rather, it was the Bison that pulled off their own comeback.
In an attempt to take a few more ticks off the clock, the Bearkats squibbed the kickoff. Bison defensive end Bryan Reimers recovered the kick and returned it four yards to the North Dakota State 46-yard line. Bison quarterback Steve Walker took advantage of the Bearkats secondary, completing two passes for 54 yards including the game winning 27-yard touchdown connection with wide receiver Kole Heckendorf with seven seconds remaining.
The Bearkats’ offense exploded against the Bison.
Facing a team ranked in the top five in the country, the Bearkats combined for 495 yards of offense.
“I knew we were capable of producing like we did. We haven’t done that until Saturday. But I knew we were capable,” Whitten said.
In his first high-profile game as a Bearkat, Bomar showcased the kinds of skills that he possesses. He connected on 36-of-61 passes for 358 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
Bomar also pounded for good yardage on the ground. He rushed 17 times for 103 yards including seven first downs.
Before the two teams took the field, this game would serve as a litmus test for the Bearkats. The Bearkats’ previous two games pinned them against Division II schools, Angelo State and Arkansas-Monticello. Saturday’s game against a top 5 FCS team (formerly Division I-AA) showed exactly where the Bearkats stood.
“I think this game showed that we’re capable of playing at a high level,” Whitten said. “I think this shows that we can play with the best teams in the country.”