After dropping its first game of the season against No. 2 Eastern Washington on Saturday, Sam Houston State football has to regroup for the home opener against Alabama State this Saturday.
It will be ASU’s first game of the season, and the Hornets look to kickoff the season continuing their stride from recent seasons.
In three of the past four seasons, ASU has captured the Southwestern Athletic Conference division title and are tabbed to finish first in the East division this season.
The defense will be the biggest worry for the Bearkats in Saturday’s contest.
“We learned some valuable lessons at Eastern Washington,” head coach K.C. Keeler said to GoBearkats. “I’m just hoping now that we grow from them.”
The Hornets’ offense is backed by a strong run game.
ASU finished last season averaging 235.5 rushing yards per game with an average of five yards per rush. At the end of the season, 28 of the Hornets’ 48 offensive touchdowns were rushing touchdowns.
Although ASU will be without its former star running back Isaiah Crowell, senior Malcom Cyrus returns to the Hornets. Last season, Cyrus averaged 69 yards per game highlighted by an 80-yard rushing touchdown against Prairie View A&M last October.
Backing up Cyrus is Jahaad Coleman, Khalid Thomas and Andrew Kincey. The three provide additional depth that could exploit the Bearkats’ defense the way Eastern Washington did.
The Bearkats gave up 317 rushing yards to the Eagles, allowing Eastern Washington to find the end zone three times off running the ball.
The offensive threat doesn’t stop at the run game. Last year, the Hornets averaged 32.7 points per game.
SHSU will have to tighten up coverage in the backfield to stop returning starting quarterback Daniel Durhat. The 6-foot-1-inch, 193 pound senior threw for 1903 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Durhat will be with his top receivers Earl Lucas and DeMario Bell again. Lucas averaged 42.9 yards per game with three touchdowns while Bell received 594 yards for three touchdowns.
The Bearkats have the offense to match the Hornets.
Sophomore Jared Johnson threw for 317 yards last week, but his game was hindered by two costly interceptions. Johnson and redshirt freshman Yedidiah Louis had a nice duo going against Eastern Washington that saw Louis nab 10 catches for 89 yards.
As for the run game, junior Keshawn Hill has stepped into the big shoes of alumnus Timothy Flanders by rushing for 133 yards with a 79 yard touchdown in the opening quarter.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Bowers Stadium.