Following an overwhelming 55-17 win over Texas Southern in week three, Sam Houston State will look to secure their offense against Incarnate Word before suiting up against No. 4 Eastern Washington in week five.
The Bearkats struggled to initiate a presence on offense with three turnovers and an inability to maintain momentum kindled from running back Timothy Flanders.
Offensive coordinator Doug Ruse, known for establishing the running game early, drove a passing scheme that fell short and resulted in six scoreless drives. Head coach Willie Fritz said despite a weak execution, he feels his squad has improved with the passing scheme.
“In order for us to be a great offense we need to be able to both [pass and rush,]” Fritz said. “We’re always going to primarily be a running attack; that is our bread and butter.”
The Cardinals will drive into Huntsville following a 24-0 shutout victory against Langston University. UIW’s defense pushed the Lions back to -38 yards rushing, and 65 total offensive yards. Last year, the Bearkats rolled through UIW’s defense with 327 yards on the ground.
Flanders is approaching Saturday’s matchup 131 yards shy of attaining the Southland Conference’s all-time career rushing leader. The senior running back has maintained the Bearkats’ sole offense power, averaging 109 yards per game.
“We just got to find rhythm with our quarterback and our receivers,” Flanders said. “We’ve been throwing the ball a lot, we might come throwing out again. Later on the season we may need to throw to win a ball game.”
A redeemed SHSU defense approach the weekend looking to maintain a strong presence at the line of scrimmage.
Linebacker Tanner Brock received the Southland Conference’s defensive player of the week after leading the team in tackles with two sacks against TSU.
Lockdown coverage in the secondary, and an explosive front five has contained the running game through week three. Youth and miscommunication in the secondary have burdened zone coverage against deep routes, allowing 679 opponent passing yards through week three.
Fritz said following the TSU matchup he continues to push leverage over receivers to maintain strong coverage downfield. He added he wants to continue circulating young players through the fourth quarter, but attributes TSU’s late fourth quarter touchdown to a lack of effort from the second defensive group.
“We gave them an opportunity to play and they didn’t do very well,” Fritz said.
Due to concerns with the secondary and passing game, SHSU’s conference play remains clouded as team inconsistencies are played out.
“It’s hard to see where we’re at right now,” Fritz said. “We’ve played some good football at some times. We just want to play better this week.”
Kickoff is at 6 p.m. at Bowers Stadium.