Although projected to claim a third Southland Conference title, FCS No. 5 Sam Houston State’s lethargic team inconsistencies has stifled the championship caliber squad through week three.
The Bearkats’ 55-17 blowout over Texas Southern was delayed stemming from a scoreless first quarter. SHSU’s offense kindled a second quarter ignition following six scoreless drives; a performance head coach Willie Fritz labeled as “sloppy.”
“Thank goodness there’s more than one quarter in a game,” Fritz said.
TSU broke the first quarter standstill with a 27-yard field goal from Eric Medina in the second quarter.
SHSU retaliated with 41 uncontested points.
Running back Timothy Flanders put SHSU on the board with a two-yard rush in the second quarter to attain his 60th career rushing touchdown to claim the Southland Conference’s all-time career touchdown record.
“I look at it as another team record,” Flanders said. “I’m not the only one to say ‘well I scored the touchdown.’ You got the offensive line ‘well I was there when it happened.'”
Flanders received significant support from the defense headed by linebacker Eric Fieilo; a stark contrast from week two’s performance against Texas A&M. Flanders maintained the offense’s breath of productivity in the first half, recording two touchdowns for a comfortable 27-3 padding into halftime.
Offensive coordinator Doug Ruse solicited to establish the passing game early. Quarterback Brian Bell worked the sidelines early targeting Chance Nelson and Richard Sincere, but couldn’t gain momentum with three turnovers in the first half.
“We weren’t capitalizing on each opportunity we had,” Flanders said. “We just have to go back to what we were doing from the basics. We can’t come out and play like that.”
Week two defensive woes stemming from mismatches and miscommunications, exemplified in their tackling struggles, dissipated in the match against the Tigers.
Fritz told The Houstonian he emphasized one-on-one matchups in the secondary, and team tackling drills during practice. Following Saturday’s contest, Fritz said he’s exceptionally pleased with the defensive improvement, but assured tackling remains a prominent concern.
“The last time I check that’s a pretty important part of defensive football,” Fritz said. “I thought the defense did an excellent job in the first half. It’s nice to see them bounce back.”
Saturday’s defensive effort held off TSU’s running game for Flanders and company to regain offensive momentum. Fieilo and linebacker Tanner Brock preserved the line of scrimmage, clogging the middle seams to contain TSU’s running attack a mere 100 yards.
Cornerback Desmond Fite said he saw the defensive role as a catalyst to regain leverage on offense.
“We felt like we needed too,” Fite said. “We forced some turnovers to get a big push to get it going for the offense.”
SHSU, 2-1, continue their four game home stretch suiting up against Incarnate Word Saturday. Flanders narrowed his deficit 131 yards, looking to claim the SLC’s all-time career rushing yards record against TSU.