The Bearkats were haunted a night early when they left Natchitoches Saturday.
In a game that saw three lead changes and three ties, Northwestern State (3-1 SLC, 4-4) edged Sam Houston State (2-2, 4-4), 23-20, in a Southland Conference showdown between second place teams.
With three seconds left in the game, SHSU had a chance to nail a go-ahead, 36-yard field goal. Miguel Antonio booted the ball off course, floating it wide left.
The despair of the missed field goal hung over into the overtime periods, and the Demons ultimately outplayed the Kats to claim their third win in a row.
“I told our guys that it was amazing that we came this close,” Fritz said in an interview with the Huntsville Item. “We had 10 to 15 mistakes that cost us. We played like a young team tonight.”
The biggest scare for SHSU came in the second quarter when the conference’s top back, Tim Flanders, left the game with an ankle injury.
Ryan Wilson filled in nicely, carrying the ball 24 times for 71 yards. But with Flanders off the field, the Bearkats’ offense was exposed.
NSU brought extra pressure to the line to contain the Kats’ efficient ground game. Even with the Demons’ secondary vulnerable, SHSU finished with just 109 passing yards for the game.
“Passing is something we’ve got to keep improving on. If we want to become a complete offense, we’ve got to learn how to pass the ball,” Flanders said. “[NSU] was stacking the box, but every team we’ve played had been stacking the box.”
The Kats were dominant defending the run, limiting the Demons to 99 yards on the ground, but the SHSU secondary was batted around once again, as Paul Harris threw for 290 yards on 23-37 passing.
“[NSU] ran a lot of bootlegs, which made it a little bit harder for us to get a good pass rush,” linebacker Will Henry said. “We had a few busts, and they capitalized on them.”
SHSU scored the game’s first points late in the first quarter with a 38-yard chip shot.
The Demons matched the score with a 27-yard kick, late in the second quarter.
Opening the second half, NSU came out firing. The Demons capped a 92-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to Bradley Brown.
SHSU responded in the ensuing drive. Brian Bell hit Seth Patterson for a three-yard score, tying the game at 10.
Each team had four chances to take the lead before regulation ended in a draw.
NSU had opened the extra period with the ball. Louis Hollier pulled in a 20-yard pass to reclaim the lead, 17-10.
It took a fourth-and-11 for SHSU to respond. Bryan Randolph stepped in for Bell and hit Patterson on a 26-yard strike to tie the score at 17-all.
The Demon defense stiffened and forced the Kats to kick a field goal in the second overtime’s opening possession. Antonio sent a 31-yarder through the uprights to give SHSU the lead at 20-17.
It didn’t take long for NSU to put points back on the board. Four plays into the period, Harris punched the ball in on a one-yard keeper, giving NSU the lead and the game, 23-20.
Back at .500, the Bearkats have until next Saturday to mull on their next opponent: McNeese State.
SHSU will host the Cowboys at Bowers Stadium for the “Pink Out” game, with hopes of breaking the current two-game losing skid.