After defeating rival Stephen F. Austin 45-17 last Saturday, the Sam Houston State football team looks to continue their winning ways this weekend when they go against conference opponent Nicholls State (5-3, 2-2 SLC).
The Bearkats (4-4, 2-2 SLC) have had a roller coaster season thus far. Beginning with two home wins then followed by four consecutive losses, the Kats have since bounced back with back-to-back wins over Northwestern State and SFA, and look to make it three-in-a-row against the Colonels on Saturday at Bowers Stadium.
The game, during the annual Parent’s Weekend, is also the last home game of the season and will be the last time some players, including defensive end David Branch, offensive tackle Brandon Hale, tight end Blake Martin, defensive back Byran Richmond and quarterbacks Wade Pate and Brett Hicks play at Bowers Stadium.
NSU comes into the game on a two game losing streak, with consecutive losses to McNeese State and a heartbreaking overtime loss last week to Central Arkansas, when the Colonels’ junior fullback Broderick Cole, the team’s leading rusher, rushed for 196 yards and four touchdowns.
When they come to Huntsville, the Colonels offense isn’t a highly guarded secret; the Colonels are the only team in the Southland Conference, and one of the few teams in Division I football, who continue to run the option. Yet defensive coordinator Duane Dirk and head coach Todd Whitten said they are ready for the Colonels’ historic offensive scheme.
“There aren’t going to be a lot of surprises,” Whitten said. “They may throw in a play action wrinkle, but we have to be ready, because they are really physical on both sides of the ball.”
The Nicholls State offense may have few surprises, but it has still been effective this season, leading the Southland Conference running the ball, accumulating nearly 270 yards a game.
With the Bearkats having given up over 200 yards the last three games, the defense will look to make a statement against the best rushing attack in the Southland Conference.
“Anytime you play them you need to carry out your assignments,” Whitten said. “It’s important to have good technique, tackle well and be in the right place to stop the option.”
Last year at Bowers Stadium, the Bearkats handled the Colonels, defeating them 37-7. Despite over 250 yards rushing, the Colonels were limited through the air with only nine yards passing and the Bearkat defenders catching as many passes (1) as NSU receivers.
The Bearkat offense has taken off the past few weeks, led by the work of running back Chris Poullard and quarterback Rhett Bomar. The two have combined for 10 rushing touchdowns and over 400 yards on the ground the past two weeks.
However, the Colonels’ defense could pose problems for Bomar and Poullard. Their unit is one of the better groups in the Southland Conference, currently ranking second in points allowed per game (25), first against the pass (186.9 yards allowed per game) and second against the run (160.2 yards allowed per game). In contrast, the Bearkats defense ranks third in points allowed per game (25.8), seventh against the pass (236 yards allowed per game) and sixth against the run (189 yards allowed per game).
Though it may be acceptable to some to savor the victory and the acquisition of the “Battle of the Piney Woods” trophy last weekend, there will be no emotional hangover from last weekend’s game.
“We don’t have time to do that,” Whitten said of relishing the victory over SFA. “Not with a team as good as Nicholls State coming here this weekend.”