Four Games Later, Kats Return Home

The buzz is in the air as one of the most anticipated football games is just around the corner, the annual homecoming game.

No. 2 Sam Houston State will take on the Abilene Christian Wildcats on Saturday afternoon in a Southland Conference showdown. The Bearkats will grace the turf of Bowers Stadium for the first time since the season opener back on Sept. 3.

“We expect a great crowd, we expect a lot of enthusiasm and you kind of want to show them [alumni] who you are,” Keeler said. “It’s one of those games where you play for all the people who wore the colors of the school. Homecoming is a big event on any college campus.”

Despite the unusual scheduling, the team holds an overall record of 5-0 (4-0 in SLC). According to Keeler, the team is excited to play at Bowers Stadium in front of their home crowd.

“There’s just familiarity and we’ve had great success here,” Keeler said. “The kids are really comfortable here and it’s fun to be able to share that with your family. Playing at home is a lot of fun, especially with the home field advantage we have up here at Bowers.”

The Kats offensive attack, which leads the FCS in a number of categories, is averaging over 56 points per game and about 612 yards of total offense per game. Juniors quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe, running back Corey Avery and wide receiver Yedidiah Louis leads the charge of a versatile offense.

Keeler believes that the offense just needs to keep doing what they do in order to pull out a homecoming victory.

“We just need to do what we’ve been doing. I’ve been really pleased with how we’ve been practicing,” Keeler said. “I’ve been really pleased with how focused we are. They’re playing with unbelievable confidence and I don’t think they think people can stop them. There’s a very unique confidence going on right now with this offense.”

Briscoe, who has already thrown for 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns in just five games, will lead the Bearkat offense. Briscoe gets the job done by spreading the ball around through the air; he doesn’t just target one or two players as six Bearkats have caught multiple touchdowns this season.

Keeler has had the opportunity to coach some great quarterbacks during his career. He coached Super Bowl 49 MVP, and current Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco at Deleware. Comparing Briscoe and Flacco, Keeler can see a resemblance.

“Jeremiah [Briscoe] has special arm talents, he really does,” Keeler said. “The thing that both Jeremiah and Joe [Flacco] have is that they both have such quick releases and they don’t have to stride into the ball. In other words, they throw from their core.”

Although the Bearkats are known for being a spread offense, their rushing attack is very potent as well. The Kats have a three-headed monster in the backfield with Avery and sophomores Javin Webb and Remus Bulmer. As a unit, they average over six yards per carry and have scored 18 touchdowns this season.

“We have great skill at the quarterback position, great skill at the running back and receiver position,” Keeler said. “We have a great offensive line and the tight ends have been really good. There’s really no flaws we have on offense, so I think we’re a headache to defend.”

The offense has been able to mask the defense, which has not been able to match the offenses’ effectiveness so far, after surrendering a season high 48 points to Incarnate Word on Saturday.

“I thought we were not very focused [against Incarnate Word] after the game,” Keeler said. “I was dead wrong, we were playing hard and we were locked in, but we got beat on some double moves for some big plays. I really liked 90 percent of what we did, but that 10 percent is really bad, and we just have to clean that up.”

Junior defensive lineman P.J. Hall is the captain of the defense. The SHSU all-time leader in tackles for loss already has 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season. The team is also averaging three sacks per game.

There are things the defense can improve on though. Going forward, Keeler wants his defense to generate more turnovers.

“We need more turnovers,” Keeler said. “We had three interceptions in our hands, and those are huge plays that can change the game. So that’s the one thing I’m disappointed in, because when you look at the championship caliber teams they have a huge advantage in the turnover margin, and we do not have that advantage.”

SHSU will be the favorite against ACU as they are the consensus top team in the conference, as well as a top team nationally, but that does not mean ACU cannot cause problems.

ACU holds an overall record of 0-6, but despite their record, three of those loses have been by 11 points or less; including one-overtime loss. The Wildcats greatest strength is their passing game, and with the Bearkats struggling a bit on pass defense this is something the Wildcats could take advantage of.

“Their record doesn’t indicate how good they are,” Keeler said. “They’ve been in a lot of close games. I think Kent does a great job up their at ACU and I think they’ll be fired up to come here and play in front of a great crowd against the No. 2 ranked team in the country.”

However, the Wildcats are not very good on defense, giving up over 42 points per game and over 530 yards of total offense per game.

The Kats are finally back home and are ready to put on a show for what is expected to be a packed homecoming crowd.

6-0 is the goal this Saturday, as the team looks to continue its quest towards a national championship. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.

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