The road time blues

The Sam Houston State football team will finish the 2009 season in San Marcos this Saturday, where the team will face rival Texas State.

The Bearkats won their home finale against a stingy Central Arkansas team last week, giving them a solid 5-1 finish at home for the season. Sam Houston outscored opponents 212-145 at home on average, which is just over 11 points per game. The Bearkats have proven all season that it is tough to beat them in front of the Bearkat faithful.

The above cannot be said about the Bearkats’ play on the road. In four games on the road, Sam Houston is 0-4. The Bearkats have been outscored 198-69 and have had trouble keeping up with opponents. Both the offense and the defense have struggled away from Bowers, a place where the Bearkats will not have the luxury playing in the season finale.

“We’re awfully young but we’ve been getting better and better each week,” Head Coach Todd Whitten said. “It’s difficult traveling 70 college students and keeping them focused. How you play on the road separates the average seasons from the good seasons.”

Sam Houston has had trouble moving the ball and putting points on the board away from home. In Huntsville, the Bearkats score an average of 35.3 points. Away from home, the Bearkats score just half of that at 17.25 points per game.

The offense has suffered passing the ball on the road. Sam Houston averages 166 passing yards on the road compared to 276 passing yards at home. Completion percentage on the road also drops drastically from 63 percent at home to 50 percent on the road.

The run game has had issues on the road, as well. The Bearkats rush for an average of 154.5 yards per game at home and just 105.75 on the road. The most striking number is the disparity of rushing touchdowns on the road and at home. In six games at home, Sam Houston has rushed for 17 touchdowns. In four games on the road, they have scored two.

“In college football, home-field advantage is huge,” offensive coordinator James Fergusson said. “You’ve got the distractions, the travel, sleeping in a different bed, etc. It’s no excuse, we’ve just got to be more mature mentally.”

Sam Houston’s offense hasn’t been the only problem for the Bearkats playing on the road. The defense has also struggled away from home, where the unit allows an average of 49.5 points per game compared to 24.2 at home.

At home, the defense has held opponents to an average of 350 yards of total offense per game. On the road, the defense allows an average of 541 yards of total offense per game.

Another crucial number to take into account is the disparity in opponents’ third down efficiency on the road and at home. At Bowers, the defense allowed just 24 third down conversions on 79 attempts, for a 30.4 percent efficiency. When away, the defense has allowed 25 conversions on 47 attempts, for a 53.2 percent efficiency.

“It’s hard to win on the road,” defensive coordinator Scott Stoker said. “Big championship teams have to, though. You’ve got to concentrate harder on the road and we just haven’t done a good job with that.”

Sam Houston hopes to continue to improve and finish the season on a good note by winning its first road game of the season.

The Bearkats will look to win the season finale to put them over .500 at 6-5 overall and 4-3 in the conference.

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