Bearkats blow out Nicholls in first conference game

Sam Houston State started Southland Conference play this weekend with a Homecoming rout over Nicholls, 44-21.

The Bearkats improved their record to 3-2 overall for the season and, 1-0 in the conference after defeating the Nicholls Colonels for the fourth straight year.

Sam Houston won its third Homecoming game under head coach Todd Whitten and improved their homecoming game record to 35-40-1 overall, dating back to Sam Houston’s first homecoming game in 1931.

The Bearkats played well on both sides of the ball and kept composure when tested in their impressive victory over Nicholls this Saturday.

“Number one I think it’s awfully nice to start off 1-0 in conference play, and number two I think it’s awfully nice to get a homecoming victory,” said Coach Whitten. “I thought we played well defensively. We gave up three big plays. That’s sort of been our Achilles’ heel. We’ve got to continue to work on that.

“Offensively, I was pleased. We were a little sluggish but I think we threw it well, we protected well, but it didn’t feel like we got a lot of movement on the point of attack. But overall this is a really good victory for us.”

Running back James Aston highlighted the offense with 81 yards on 13 carries and three touchdowns, along with three receptions for 52 yards.

Aston was also a factor in the return game, with four returns for 124 yards, including a pivotal 50-yard return that led to the go-ahead touchdown for the Bearkats in the third quarter.

“There was good blocking on the kickoff return, it had some good creases, and it’s always good to start on that side of your field,” Aston said, who accounted for 257 all-purpose yards in the Sam Houston victory. “We went down, punched it right in, and we got the touchdown. We just kind of captured that and took the momentum right back.”

Quarterback Blake Joseph completed 21 of 36 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 11 times for 54 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Jason Madkins led the receiving core with seven receptions for 93 yards. Darnell Jones caught four passes for 56 yards, and Chris Lucas caught four passes for 31 yards and a touchdown.

The Bearkats’ defense has continued to improve. The defense held Nicholls to 321 total yards and 21 points, the second lowest amount allowed by the Bearkat defense this season.

Excluding a few big plays, Sam Houston shut down the Nicholls’ option-dominant offense. Most notably, Sam Houston was solid on third down, where Nicholls was only three for 12.

“I feel like we played pretty good, big plays are just what got us today, but other than that we played pretty good,” said linebacker Luke McCall, who led the defense with 10 total tackles. “I think we played pretty well on third down, which is nice to get off the field when we can.

“We got a bunch of new guys and a new defense, so it’s going to take a couple games for the new defense to adjust and learn the system, but I think we’re coming into it pretty well now.”

The Bearkats opened the game with a touchdown drive on the their first possession. Marching 73 yards down the field on three passes and six runs. Following a two-yard touchdown run by James Aston, the Bearkats took the lead, 7-0.

Nicholls responded two drives later with a 77-yard run by running back A.J. Williams. Sam Houston safety Victor Carmichael forced a fumble that rolled into the end zone. Both teams scrambled for the loose ball, but Nicholls’ wide receiver Anton Robinson recovered it in the end zone, tying the game at 7-7 following the extra point.

The Bearkats fought back on their first possession in the second quarter on a drive that began on the Nicholls 31-yard line following a failed fake punt. Following a 16-yard touchdown run by Aston, the Bearkats regained the lead, 14-7.

Later in the second quarter, Nicholls again tied the game up. After a 68-yard touchdown reception by Anton Robinson, the Colonels knotted the game up at 14-14.

Right before the half, the Bearkats responded after a 22-yard punt return by Brandon Closner that put Sam Houston in field goal range. Miguel Antonio booted a 42-yard field goal to give the Bearkats a 17-14 going into the half.

Nicholls came out firing in the second half and took its first lead of the game. The Colonels marched 80 yards down the field and took the lead, 21-17, following a one-yard run by Trey Hopson.

The Bearkats kept composure and did not panic. A 50-yard kickoff return by James Aston set up the go-ahead scoring drive for Sam Houston. The Bearkats regained the lead at 24-21 following a six-yard touchdown run by Joseph.

Sam Houston went on to score 27 unanswered points en route to victory, including an additional touchdown run by Joseph, a touchdown pass to Chris Lucas, and another touchdown run by Aston.

The Bearkats play another conference foe next week when they take on Southeastern Lousiana on the road. They look to improve their overall record to 4-2 and increase their conference record to 2-0.

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