Bearkats’ bittersweet beauty

On a night when the Bearkat football team lost its starting quarterback, the Kats ended their home schedule the same way they began it; with a victory.

The Bearkats’ (5-4, 3-2 SLC) 16-13 victory over the Nicholls State Colonels (5-4, 2-3 SLC) led the Sam Houston State team to a 4-1 record at Bowers Stadium this season.

“I thought this was a very big win for us,” SHSU head coach Todd Whitten said. “You just can’t say enough about the way our guys fought and battled all game long. This is probably the biggest win for us since I got here.”

Sophomore running back Chris Poullard carried the team, both figuratively and literally, in one of the best games of his short career with 198 total yards of offense to pave the way for the Bearkats’ victory.

Poullard’s defining moment came late in the fourth quarter. With the Bearkats holding a 16-13 lead on NSU’s 27-yard-line, Whitten chose to go for it on fourth and one instead of going for the field goal. With the Colonels out of time-outs and 92 seconds remaining in the game, Whitten called on his running back one last time and Poullard didn’t disappoint, picking up the first down to ensure the Bearkats’ fifth win of the season.

Following a fumble by Colonels’ running back Dwayne Jones deep in SHSU territory. The Kats responded by going 79 yards in 9 plays, capped off by Poullard’s only rushing touchdown of the game on a three-yard trot up the middle, giving SHSU an early 7-0 lead in the middle of the first quarter.

Poullard was the focal point of the offense throughout the game, including 130 yards on the ground on 34 carries and he was also the team’s leading receiver with 7 catches for 68 yards.

Poullard’s workload was increased after quarterback Rhett Bomar suffered an apparent knee injury and senior quarterback Brett Hicks, last year’s starter, took over with less than two minutes to go in the first half.

“I’m fortunate with the opportunity, but this is definitely not the way I wanted it to go,” Hicks said. “I feel bad for Rhett; I went through the same thing in high school and it isn’t a fun thing.”

Hicks finished the game 9-for-19 for 92 yards and an interception.

The Bearkats got a pair of field goals by kicker Taylor Wilkins of 33 and 29 yards before the half for a 10-point lead, 13-3.

With Bomar questionable going into halftime, coach Whitten called on his running back to help carry the team in the second half.

“You’re going to change your gameplan, and we knew we needed to,” Whitten said. “I told him [Poullard] that he was going to need to step it up and help us get it done.”

The result was six of the first seven plays coming out of the second half involving Poullard in some capacity.

“I just knew with Rhett out of the game, more of it was going to come my way,” Poullard said. “I just had to step it up and see if we could pull this thing off.”

The Colonels inched closer in the third quarter with a 33 yard field goal by kicker Alex Romero, to cut the lead to 13-6, set up by a fumble from Poullard at the Bearkats 48-yard-line.

Following an interception by Hicks at the end of the third quarter, the Colonels marched down the field, on a 6-play 48-yard drive, which included a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Joseph Tobias, to tie the game at 13-13.

After the Bearkats offense become stagnant in the second half, the Kats break came in the middle of the fourth quarter when linebacker Carlton Cobey recovered a fumble from Colonels quarterback Vincent Montgomery.

The Bearkats subsequently drove the ball 42 yards and, despite three runs by Poullard within the ten yard line, the Kats had to settle for an 18-yard field goal by Wilkins to give them a 16-13 lead.

The Colonels’ potent option offense, which Nicholls State had been using to run over opposing defenses, went into the game first in rushing offense in the Southland Conference averaging around 270 yards a game and was held in check by the Kats defense, rushing for only 177 yards, led by Montgomery with 70 yards on 16 carries. The Colonels total on the ground was their lowest for the season.

Defensive back Byran Richmond had five total tackles including one highlight reel hit to save a touchdown.

“Defensively, everybody, every single play carried out their assignment,” Richmond said. “All through the week we emphasized taking care of your responsibilities and everyone played great.”

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