The Bearkats (3-1) approach week five with three games posting 50 or more points. However, despite Sam Houston State’s 52-21 victory Saturday at Bowers Stadium, head coach Willie Fritz isn’t satisfied.
The No. 4 Bearkats’ defensive struggles allowed Incarnate Word a breath of production in the opening drives of the first and second quarter.
Cardinal freshman quarterback Trent Brittain forced deep routes through SHSU’s veteran secondary to expose misreads from defensive back Desmond Fite. Through week four the Bearkats’ backfield has surrendered 909 yards in the air, deriving from mismatches and botched coverage, continuing SHSU’s troubling inconsistencies during first quarter performances; an issue Fritz doesn’t foresee lingering through the remainder of the season.
“I think we have the talent back there to have a really good secondary,” Fritz said. “Each and every week, the better team you play, the more they have to step up.”
Running back Junior Sessions gave the Cardinals their second lead of the game with a 1-yard rush to open the second quarter.
Then the Bearkats started clicking.
SHSU reunited in the second quarter down 14-10 when quarterback Brian Bell stepped up and steered the offense for five consecutive scoring drives.
Feeding from strong kick-off returns headed by receiver Richard Sincere, the Bearkats’ offense kindled small momentum through the legs of running back Timothy Flanders. The All-American tore through UIW’s defensive line to push into the red zone, scrambling for two touchdowns on the night.
Flanders posted 157-yards against the Cardinals to claim the Southland Conference’s all-time career leading rusher with 4,720 career yards – passing previous record holder Claude Mathis with 4,694 yards.
“It’s great that a guy who’s such a team player got the record,” Fritz said. “Our offensive linemen, quarterbacks, receivers, anybody who’s been involved on scout team take a part in this record that he just established for us.”
He secured the record with a 41-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to expand SHSU’s lead 45-14.
Flanders’ record extends his SLC r?sum? after claiming the all-time career touchdown record against Texas Southern University in week three. Fritz said Flanders’ records signify a collaborated team effort, citing offensive linemen, receivers and scout team members.
“Our goal with Timothy is to put that darn record so far ahead that no one will break that sucker.”
But Flanders wasn’t the sole offensive force Saturday. Bell accounted for 35 of the Bearkats’ 52 points including four passing touchdowns.
The senior quarterback maintained steady momentum through the third quarter working the sidelines with Sincere and wide receiver Torrance Williams. He demonstrated strong composure within pocket pressure, and pushed downfield with short pass gains before capping off a 39-yard touchdown pass to Williams in the second quarter.
“The receivers made me look really good,” Bell said. “It felt really good to get our passing completion up, get our passing game going a little bit and peak at the right moment.”
SHSU will suit up against No. 3 FCS opponent Eastern Washington Saturday at Bowers Stadium.
The Bearkats edged a 45-42 in the 2012 FCS playoffs to continue to their second national championship appearance in Frisco, Texas.
EWU (2-1) will travel into Huntsville following a bye in week six.
Kickoff is at 2 p.m. at Bowers Stadium.