Since the Battle of the Piney Woods migrated down Interstate 45 to Reliant Stadium in 2010, Sam Houston State’s football program has nestled in comfortably, turning the Houston Texans’ venue into a home of their own.
With an average of about 25,000 fans flocking to Houston for Texas’ third oldest rivalry, senior All-American running back Timothy Flanders said the volume of Bearkat fans have created a sense of home-field advantage.
“Because of the turnout of our fans and alumni that’s been coming the past two years it will be another great atmosphere,” he said.
The Bearkats maintain a 50-35-2 favor since the rivalry’s inception 88-years ago. Since the school’s rise through Southland Conference prestige, one or both teams have suited up for the Battle of the Piney Woods nationally ranked.
Despite national polls and conference standings, SHSU is expecting another offensive shootout with the Lumberjack’s returning senior quarterback, Brad Attaway.
Attaway commanded SFA’s offensive force against the Bearkats last season with 545-yards in the air totaling six touchdowns. The senior quarterback sparked a late comeback in the fourth quarter with two consecutive touchdown drives in the final 11 minutes. Despite lingering talks of an upset, SHSU escaped SFA’s comeback forcing a turnover on downs to run down the clock.
Flanders said Attaway is still public enemy number one.
“You can’t look past their offense,” Flanders said. “They throw the ball a lot and [Attaway] is a good quarterback. At the same time, Gus [Johnson] is a good running back and can get yards.”
Flanders has averaged only 62-yards rushing the past three weeks since opening Southland Conference play. However, the Walter Peyton Award candidate has provided security in the backfield for quarterback Brian Bell in pass protection and ample time to develop SHSU’s passing game.
Flanders and SHSU have climbed to national prominence with their performance at Reliant Stadium.
In 2011, the running back ripped down the sideline for 10 yards and flipped over a Lumberjack defender for a touchdown to receive national recognition and the term “Flanders Flip.”
Flanders said because of the plays that are recognized by national media outlets including Sports Center, the rivalry has brought national recognition to SHSU to help the program become a household name in FCS football.
“Because we are playing in Houston and its one of Texas oldest rivalries, there is no telling what’s going to happen this Saturday,” he said.
SHSU (6-2) is situated third in league standings behind McNeese State and Southeastern Louisiana. With Fritz and company squaring up against a young SFA roster (3-5), the Bearkats are looking to continue their SLC comeback for a third conference title.
Kickoff is at 3 p.m.