Timothy Flanders made his case as the top running back in any league with his 280-yard performance against No. 2 Eastern Washington Saturday at Bowers Stadium.
The All-American accounted for two touchdowns in Sam Houston State’s 49-34 victory, and became just the 22nd running back in FCS history to record 5,000 career rushing yards.
Flanders rushed for 231 yards against the Eagles during the FCS Division I semi-finals in 2012, and has averaged 255 rushing yards against EWU in the past two seasons.
“We just kept giving him the rock, and towards the end of the game I told [offensive coordinator Doug Ruse,] and he already knew it,” head coach Willie Fritz said. “Let’s just keep giving the ball to 20, and good things will happen.”
Following an hour-and-a-half rain delay, SHSU’s offense kindled early production running a fast-tempo, no-huddle offense.
Receiver Richard Sincere capped SHSU’s three-play opening drive with a 51-yard touchdown run following two consecutive first downs from Flanders and quarterback Brian Bell. Sincere’s opening touchdown boomed throughout Bowers Stadium and sent a bold statement to the Eagles’ sideline.
Preceding Saturday’s contest, Eagle’s head coach Beau Baldwin said pride was at stake flying into Huntsville.
Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams heard SHSU’s message and responded with two scoring drives, including a 33-yard touchdown pass hauled in by receiver Ashton Clark.
SHSU trailed EWU 13-7 when Bell kindled a second quarter comeback that included defensive production.
“We were tough,” Fritz said. “We just kept fighting and scratching and clawing.”
A 42-yard pick-six from cornerback De’Antrey Loche interrupted the Eagles’ momentum in the first half. Loche said he was poaching Adams on the corner with the quarterback teasing the same passing route.
“They had been running [the same route] all game and I knew it was a matter of time before they were going to throw to me,” Loche said. “So I was just waiting for the opportunity.”
Bell’s field chemistry with receiver Torrance Williams restored productivity in the second half leading to two touchdowns. The offensive duo’s targeting of downfield pockets and exposing weak one-on-one coverage tallied four passing touchdowns in weeks four and five.
“We’ve got Flanders running the ball, so it really opens up the passing game,” Williams said. “Me and Brian have really just been focusing on our long ball all season since I got back in the spring and summer. The big guys up front are doing an excellent job of protecting. We like how it’s going.”
SHSU’s victory extends their season record to 4-1, as well as continues their 18-game home winning streak at Bowers Stadium – the longest in school history and in the FCS.
The Bearkats return to Bowers Stadium following a bye-week on Oct. 12 to face Southland Conference opponent Lamar University (3-2.)