The Bearkats received their first victory this weekend on the foot of a rookie kicker, edging North Dakota State, 48-45, in a game that came down to the wire.
Led by quarterback Blake Joseph, the Bearkats dominated the Bison defense with 620 total yards on 74 plays. Joseph, who started only his second game at quarterback for Sam Houston State, completed 24 of 36 passes, for 482 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 51 yards rushing on eight attempts.
Joseph played much better in this week’s victory than in last week’s loss. In last week’s loss, Joseph completed 16 of 27 passes for 173 yards, along with two lost fumbles. This week, Joseph had none.
“The game slowed down for me a lot tonight,” said Joseph. “Last week was my first time lining up at quarterback in a long time, but it slowed down a lot for me tonight. The offensive line was great. We just really clicked tonight.”
Joseph’s primary targets were wide receivers Jason Madkins and Darnell Jones. Jones led the Bearkats in receptions, recording seven in the game. Madkins shredded the Bison defense with six catches and a touchdown, en route to setting a career high in receiving yards with 239. Five of Madkins six catches were for 39 yards or more.
“In practice the coaches have been talking about attacking the defender, so that’s something I wanted to demonstrate throughout the game,” said Madkins. “If we can do this every game, we’ll always come away with a win. If we all come together like we’ve been talking about, we’ll always have success.”
The Bearkat defense had problems again this week. The unit looked great in the first half, allowing just 81 total yards and 7 points. But in the second half the Bearkat defense allowed 338 total yards and 38 points.
The defense had problems stopping the rushing attack of North Dakota State running back Pat Paschall, who ran for 176 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns. The defense did well defending the pass, but poorly, at stopping the run, opposite of last week’s performance.
The defense did however have success getting pressure on the quarterback. The Bearkats recorded three sacks as a unit, along with eight tackles for a loss. Defensive end, Chris Brown, was once again a presence, recording three tackles, one sack, and one interception.
“A win is a win but we could have done much better as a defensive unit,” said Brown. “In the first half we played just about perfect. In the second half, we came out relaxed, with the lead at halftime, and it showed. Every time you make mistakes a big play happens. We just need to go in and fix those little mistakes.”
The Bearkats scored on the game’s opening drive on an eight play, 73 yard drive, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by running back James Aston. In less than four minutes into the game, the Bearkats drove down the field to begin the game with a 7-0 lead.
The Bearkats next possession ended on a punt, and North Dakota state started with great field possession on their own 47 yard-line. The Bison scored on a touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Mertens to fullback Garrett Bruhn. Going into the second quarter, the game was knotted at 7-7.
The Bearkats responded on their next drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Blake Joseph to James Aston, giving them a 14-7 lead.
The Bearkats continued their dominance on their next drive. Chris Poullard scored on a three-yard touchdown run to put Sam Houston State up, 21-7.
Just before the half, the Bearkats added three more points on a 48-yard field goal by rookie kicker Miguel Antonio. Going into the half the Bearkats led, 24-7.
The Bison came out firing in the second half, outscoring the Bearkats 24-7 going into the fourth quarter. They scored mainly on big plays, including a 51-yard run by Paschall and a 63-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Titus Mack.
The Bearkats regained the lead, 38-31, on a 46-yard touchdown pass to Madkins, only to watch the lead shrink to one after a 53-yard Bison touchdown pass to running back Matt Voigtlander.
The Bearkats extended the lead to eight, 45-37, after a two-yard touchdown run by Blake Joseph. In the ensuing drive, the Bison tied the game on a one-yard touchdown run by Nick Mertens, followed by a similar play on a two-point conversion.
With the game tied at 45-45, Joseph led the Bearkats down to Bison seven yard-line with 26 seconds left in the game. Rookie kicker Miguel Antonio kicked the game-winning 24-yard field goal to give the Bearkats a deciding 48-45 lead.
“Miguel’s going to be such a great Bearkat,” said head coach Todd Whitten. “You’re going to see a lot more of those big kicks. We’re very pleased with him.”