With a dominant defense, and a strong running game, Sam Houston State demolished Montana State at home in the Football Championship (FCS) quarterfinals on Saturday, 49-13.
Bearkat wide receiver Richard Sincere and company had a career day, picking up 428 rushing yards in the rout win.
Sam Houston improves to 13-0 on the season, and keeps the longest winning streak in school history alive at 15.
Montana State (10-3) will return home after the loss ends the team’s playoff run.
Things started slow for the Bearkats and early on in the game Montana State created an early turnover when linebacker Na’a Moeakila intercepted Bearkat quarterback Brian Bell, giving the Bobcats the ball at the 34-yard line.
From there, the Bobcat offense would take ball for a 7-play, 24-yard drive that ended with a 27-yard field goal by Jason Cunningham, giving them an early 3-0 lead.
On their next offensive drive, Sam Houston began to establish themselves offensively and scored on an 8-play, 81-yard touchdown drive.
The drive was highlighted by a long 52-yard run by wide receiver Richard Sincere putting them at the Bobcats 12-yard line. Three plays later, Bell found wide receiver Grant Merritt in the back of the endzone, with an 11-yard pass, putting Sam Houston up for good, 7-3.
That would be all the scoring done in the opening quarter and at the end of it, Montana State lead in offensive yardage, 96-88, picking up 67 yards on the ground.
On the first drive of the second quarter, the Bobcats scored again, adding a 22-yard field goal of the foot of Cunningham.
But Sam Houston responded and Bell capped off a six play, 71-yard drive, with a big 54-yard touchdown run up the middle of the field.
On the next offensive drive for the Bobcats, they would have the highlight of the game, after senior wide receiver Elvis Akpla hauled in a ridiculous, over the shoulder catch that was good for a 40-yard gain.
That would set the Bobcats up at the Sam Houston 30-yard line, but the offense stalled. Cunningham would attempt a 46-yard field goal, but missed as the ball sailed right of the upright.
Sam Houston would add one more score in the half, after a deflected pass by a Bobcat lineman found its way into Sincere’s hands, and from there he was able to dodge and weave, scoring on a 40-yard touchdown play.
With 2 minutes left to go in the half, the Bobcat offense looked to get some points before halftime and moved the ball to Sam Houston’s 22-yard line, but would have to settle for a 39-yard field goal attempt.
The attempt would be blocked by Sam Houston defensive lineman Preston Sanders as time expired in the half, leaving the score 21-6 going into the half.
In the second quarter alone, the teams combined for a total of 280 yards, while Sam Houston was able to rush for 117 of those.
After the break, Montana State looked poised and under control, taking the opening drive for an 11-play, 77-yard touchdown drive, that pulled the score to 21-13.
The drive was capped off by a 7-yard pass from quarterback DeNarius McGhee to wide receiver Everett Gilbert. The touchdown extended McGhee’s streak to 25-straight games with a touchdown pass.
Sam Houston immediately responded and wide receiver Brandon Closner returned the kickoff 82-yards for a touchdown.
“The kickoff return was really the big play of this football game, in my mind,” Montana State head coach Rob Ash said. “It instantly changed the score back to a big lead and deflated the momentum that we had. We just didn’t kick the ball in the right spot, didn’t cover it as well as we should, and they made a good play.”
Sam Houston’s defense would shine in the quarter as they were able to stop the Bobcat offense and ultimately forced an interception from McGhee giving them the ball at the 22-yard line, but a personal foul on the interception gave them the ball at the 7-yard line. Sam Houston would eventually score on a one-yard touchdown run by running back Ryan Wilson.
After a quick three-and-out by the Bobcat offense, Sam Houston responded again, adding a quick 56-yard score on a long run by wide receiver Torrance Williams.
Williams scored one last touchdown on a 21-yard run that closed the scoring for both teams and ended the game 49-13.
Next, Sam Houston will play host to the Montana Grizzlies (11-3), who is coming off their own dominant win against Northern Iowa, 48-10.
“It’s going to be a great challenge,” Sam Houston head coach Willie Fritz said. “I watched a little bit of that ballgame last night. They’re a tough, hard-nosed, physical football team, so we’re going to have to have a great week of preparation in order to be successful playing them next week.”
Kickoff has been announced for 7 p.m. on Friday and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN.