Pride and redemption is on the line as Sam Houston State returns to Hammond, La., for the second time this season to claim their right to the FCS quarterfinals against Southland Conference champions Southeastern Louisiana.
The Bearkats are looking to echo their performance against Southern Utah after they returned to the roots of their success, executing a multi-facet offensive playbook that SHSU head coach Willie Fritz is excited to implement in Saturday’s rematch.
Southeastern Louisiana received a week one bye for their automatic bid into the FCS Division I playoffs, as the SLC champions.
“We’re very excited about being able to go back over to Southeastern Louisiana,” Fritz said in a press conference Tuesday. “Also playing them just a few weeks after we played them last time, it’s a great, great opportunity.”
Senior running back Timothy Flanders tallied his first 100-plus yard game against Southern Utah after suffering consecutive weeks with a running game that has been more or less impotent. With Flanders re-exposed to success on the ground game, Southeastern Louisiana’s rush defense will look to produce the same success against Flanders similar to week 11.
The senior All-American scrounged a mere 47 yards against the Lions, with linebacker Isiah Corbett clogging the Bearkats’ seams through the middle. Although SHSU produced 400 offensive yards against the Lions, they relied heavily on the arm of quarterback Brian Bell in the 34-21 loss.
Despite SHSU’s subpar performance during the regular season matchup, Lions head coach Ron Roberts said he isn’t short-changing the Bearkats.
“This is the playoffs and you’ve got to get ready for a good football team,” Roberts said. “I think they’re probably going to come in here with a chip on their shoulder. These guys know obviously how to turn it up in the playoffs and you could see that last week.”
Following the Bearkats’ 51-20 blowout against Southern Utah, Flanders echoed the same mindset as Roberts, claiming each round of the playoff is a new season with Saturday’s matchup as the second season.
“I don’t want to go home again,” Flanders said following Saturday’s win. “We’re more excited than we ever could be. I know those guys are going to see what we did good, but we’re going in there with a whole new mentality.”
With Bell assuming role under center after suffering a sprained shoulder against the Lions, a revamped air attack from the senior quarterback in round two will look to complement his performance in round one completing 15-21 for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
But with former Oregon University backup Bryan Bennett steering the reins for Southeastern Louisiana, both secondary groups can expect a similar quarterback shootout.
“We just feel like we can do what it takes to find some kind of way to be 1-0 at the end Saturday,” senior Bearkat receiver Richard Sincere said. “We don’t take anything for granted. We pride ourselves on being hard workers and winning football games, so being back on the winning side was a great feeling.”
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. with a live coverage on Southland TV.