The Sam Houston State football team finished the non-conference portion of their schedule last weekend.
With one win against Alabama State and three losses to Eastern Washington, Louisiana State, and Colorado State-Pueblo, the Bearkats find themselves with a 1-3 record going into conference play. The Bearkats haven’t started a season 1-3 since 2005, and if they want to win a Southland Conference championship, things need to be fixed.
Coming into this season, the Bearkats had high hopes they could return as powerhouses in the SLC even with new head coach K.C. Keeler and losing key players such as graduated running back Timothy Flanders and graduated quarterback Brian Bell. When you lose your all-time rusher and winningest quarterback, a new offense must be created. And so far this season, SHSU’s offense has not shown up in the past two games, being blown out by LSU 56-0 and the embarrassing loss to Colorado State-Pueblo 47-21. In the latter game, the Bearkats didn’t score until the third quarter, already being down 34 points.
Some believe the problem offensively is the quarterback play from sophomore Jared Johnson and the lack of the run game compared to previous years. Johnson has thrown five touchdowns and four interceptions with completing only 56 percent of his passes. His inaccuracy in the passing game has been noticed by many and some are calling for sophomore Don King III or even the redshirt freshman John Roderique. Keeler put in King III to replace Johnson in last week’s loss to the ThunderWolves. In just a quarter and a half of work, King went five for seven for 74 yards and one touchdown.
The passing game has been used more this season than in years past yet not enough when they need it to show. Redshirt freshman receiver Yedidiah Louis leads the Bearkats in receiving this season with 21 catches for 229 yards but zero touchdowns. In the LSU game, Louis was the diamond in the rough with 102 yards, nearly half of the whole Bearkat offense in the game. Another receiver not being utilized is Ladarius Brown, the junior transfer from Texas Christian, who has 13 catches for 173 yards. The Bearkats’ offense has been at its best when the different receivers have been utilized.
The running game could be used as well as it has been used in the past. The number one running back job was given to senior Keshawn Hill who has 450 yards but 202 of those are receiving. Two transfer running backs each have over 100 yards rushing so far this season. Junior Donavan Williams, from ASA college, and sophomore Jalen Overstreet, from University of Texas, have each shown great sparks this season. Hill, Williams and Overstreet should all be used more often in the Bearkats’ run game as they all average over five yards a run, yet all three combined have only taken 91 rushing attempts. But the run game has been hampered by Johnson, who has 39 attempts for only 107 yards.
The offense for SHSU is not the only problem. The defense has allowed more than 2,000 yards of offense and given up 179 points. The defense has only forced five turnovers and nine sacks. The Bearkats’ linemen are getting beat on every snap and the secondary is giving up too many big plays. In the LSU game, the Tigers’ first play on offense was a 94-yard touchdown reception, the longest in LSU history. SHSU is also giving up an average of 44.8 points per game and allowed 101 first downs to the 86 the Bearkats have.
To make matters worse, SHSU’s punter has already punted more in the four games this year than he did all of last season in the 14 games the Bearkats played in.
The Bearkats have not played their smartest this year, having 38 penalties for 364 yards. The penalties have really hurt the Bearkats in their key games. SHSU had 16 penalties for 159 yards in the Eastern Washington game and 10 penalties for 95 yards against Colorado State-Pueblo.
This season so far has not been the best for the Bearkats, but it is all a learning experience for this team. The season is not done either. While a record of 1-3 before conference is not the best, all three games were not supposed to be an easy ride. SHSU was not favored to win against Eastern Washington, then the no 1. ranked team in FCS, or against LSU, the now no. 8 in FBS. Colorado State-Pueblo, the no. 2 ranked school in Division II, played their best in last weekend’s game while the Bearkats played their worst. The Bearkats did have a good showing against Alabama State, but they have harder games coming up in this season.
SHSU will have to open strong against Lamar to set the pace for the rest of the SLC season.