Going into Saturday’s game, the Sam Houston State football season was reliant upon the outcome of the contest between the Bearkats and Northwestern State. A win puts them in a scenario which allows them an opportunity for one of the eight possible at-large playoff berths. A loss, in effect, puts the consecutive loss number at five, flushing a once prosperous beginning to the season down the toilet, causing fans to clamor for a change at the top and the season to be essentially over.
This game was a “must-win” in the truest sense of the word. Coaches and players alike will say all games they play are “must-win;” however, the game against the Demons was more important than any of the previous six games. Despite this predicament, the Bearkats came up big in the most important game so far with a 42-20 win over Northwestern State.
Despite four consecutive losses, which might lead some teams to start questioning coaching strategies, calling out players and quitting on themselves and their teammates, the Bearkats remained strong. They remained united. After an interception return for a touchdown by the Demons on Bomar’s first pass to give them an early 7-0 lead, the Bearkats could have easily fallen apart, assuming the result to be the same as the four games prior. But instead, they fought back.
“We stuck together and played as a team,” SHSU running back Chris Poullard said. “Even after Rhett’s pick, we told him we had his back.”
As a team, they played their best game. Inconsistency running the ball has plagued them throughout the season, having recorded fewer than 100 yards rushing in two of the previous three games. But on Saturday, they established the run early and often with a pair of rushing touchdowns by Poullard in the first quarter, including a 61-yarder.
Bomar also contributed with three touchdown runs of his own, including a 59-yard run in the second quarter. The 301 yards on the ground was the highest for the season. After the preceding home game in which they were thoroughly embarrassed by the University of Central Arkansas, those who left the game carried a bitter taste in their mouth. The NSU game tried to bring back the positive feelings Bearkat fans had following the first two home wins of the season. The win over the Demons reminds us that this team still has a chance to do something in conference.
From a defensive point of view, the game allowed the secondary to quiet their critics for at least a week. The much maligned group has been a target by not only opposing offensive coordinators, but also fans throughout the season, with the team’s pass defense ranking as the second-lowest in conference.
Despite their struggles, the unit gave opposing quarterback Germayne Edmond problems all game, allowing him to complete less than 50 percent of his passes for only 136 yards, the lowest amount in both areas so far this season allowed by the Bearkats’ defense. Although only earning one recorded sack, the defense played strong against the pass with the front four constantly putting pressure on Edmond which led to errant passes throughout the game.
Despite all of the positive momentum, which will come from this game, the team still has a long way to go. They are only 3-4 with two wins coming from Division II opponents. The defense was ineffective against the run, allowing the Demons to rush for over 200 yards, and will need to be fixed if the team has a chance of making the postseason. There were far too many penalties, especially on special teams. It was almost expected that on each and every punt there would be a holding or illegal block-in-the-back penalty called against the Bearkats. The team failed to intercept a pass or, for that matter, force a turnover.
But that’s not what needs to be remembered about the game against the Demons. The game should be remembered as one where the Bearkats got their first conference win of the year, didn’t fail in the face of adversity and most importantly, came together as a team.