SHSU takes home opener 51-20 over Alabama State

The Bearkats looked sharped on the offensive side of the ball all night and seemed to be a more confident team jumping out of the gates against the Hornets.

Sophomore quarterback Jared Johnson finished off with 386 passing yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions against an Alabama State defense that was ranked at the top of the Southwestern Athletic Conference last season.

SHSU used a variety of their running backs in the non-conference game to finish with 289 rushing yards as a team.  Running backs senior Keshawn Hill, junior transfer Donavon Williams, and sophomore transfer Jalen Overstreet all contributed big to lead the Bearkats to head coach K.C. Keeler’s first victory at SHSU.

Williams and Overstreet both rushed for 83 yards. Along with Williams, Hill also had a rushing touchdown against Hornets’ linebacker Torey Davis and his Alabama State defense.

Hill led the team in receiving yards with 126. Junior transfer LaDarius Brown and senior Rickey Smith led all receivers in receptions with six against the Hornets defense.

Johnson’s 48-yard long ball to Jeffrey Thomas for a touchdown gave Sam Houston the lead against Alabama State 35-7 just before halftime.

Thomas also contributed in the win with snagged four more receptions along with his touchdown earlier in the game.

The Hornets tried to turn things around in the second half. Hornets’ quarterback Daniel Duhart threw a 69-yard pass to Demario Bell that diminished the Bearkats’ lead to 38-17.

As the Hornets fought to make a comeback, the Bearkats answered with a 68-yard pass from Johnson to Hill that increased the lead by 28.

The time of possession played a huge key in the Bearkats’ victory, which was a complete turnaround from Eastern Washington in the first meeting of the season.

The Bearkats had control of the ball for 40:08 minutes compared to the Hornets’ 19:52.

“We don’t mind if we don’t win the time of possession,” Keeler said. “We want to win the number of plays, but not the time of possession.”

The defensive side of the ball for the Bearkats was much improved from the first week’s contest against Eastern Washington. SHSU limited ASU to just 141 rushing yards compared to the Hornets’ 235 rushing yards a game last season.

Just before the second quarter, Duhart threw a pass that was intercepted by senior safety Michael Wade.

Despite a much-improved defensive performance, the Bearkats still managed to give up 261 passing yards and found their secondary getting beat deep on different occasions. The Bearkats looks to have a good rush defense but getting better on pass defense seems to be a concern for Coach Keeler.

“I think we’re going to be salty against the run,” Keeler said. “But it’s giving up the big chunks in the passing game. With how explosive this offense can be, we want to get the ball back as quickly as possible but just don’t let people beat us deep.”

Now SHSU will have to change focus to FBS powerhouse Louisiana State this Saturday.

Kickoff is tabbed for 6:30 p.m. in Baton Rouge, La.

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