No. 1 Kats Prepare for Defending Conference Champions

With their win over Texas Southern last Saturday, the Sam Houston State Bearkats now hold an 8-0 record this season, and are 6-0 in the Southland Conference. With three games left to play, the Kats will be looking to finish the regular season with a conference championship, and possibly hold the top overall seed in the FCS playoff, which comes with home field advantage until the national championship game.

This week’s opponent for the Bearkats is the defending conference champion, the McNeese State Cowboys.

The last time the Bearkats and Cowboys got together was in last year’s playoff, where the Bearkats went down to Lake Charles Louisiana, and ended the Cowboys’ season with a 34-29 upset win over the fourth seeded Cowboys. The Cowboys will no doubt be looking for revenge this Saturday at Bowers Stadium.  The Cowboys came into the season ranked number 11 in the preseason Stats FCS poll, but have been mostly a disappointing team so far this season.  The Cowboys are now unranked and hold a 5-4 overall record and is 4-3 in conference play.  This team, although inconsistent, is capable of pulling the upset, and will be highly motivated to end the Bearkats’ undefeated season the same way the Bearkats ended theirs last year.

“Revenge is a big motivator,” head coach K.C. Keeler said. “They are a good team, they will match us on special teams, and they have some very good receivers, and can throw the football.”

McNeese State is going to rely on sophomore quarterback James Tabary to be the catalyst for the offense. Tabary does a good job spreading the ball around for the Cowboys, as they have five receivers who have caught between 26 and 31 passes. There is not one guy to take away for the Bearkats, as they prepare to face a Cowboy offense that has a multi-dimensional passing attack.  There is great a balance in the attack, but junior wide receiver Darious Crawley will be the player to watch for. Crawley is tied for the team lead in receptions with 31, leads the team in receiving yards with 504, receiving touchdowns with five and in yards per catch with 16.3.

Crawley is not the only dangerous player for the Cowboys’, but he is their most dangerous player on offense.

“They want to play with some tempo on offense,” Keeler said. “I can’t imagine them slowing things down on us. I don’t think they will tempo as fast as we tempo, but they will definitely try to play fast on us.”

Defensively, the Cowboys boast one of the best duos in the country on the defensive line, with junior Jammerio Gross-Whitaker and Chris Livings bookending each other. The defensive ends this season each have 11 tackles for loss and have combined for 12.5 sacks. Gross-Whitaker is also the team’s second leading tackler, despite where he lines up on defense.

If there is any way for the Cowboys to beat the Bearkats, it would be for these defensive ends to put pressure on junior quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe and make him uncomfortable throwing the ball. This could be the best defensive line the Bearkats have faced all season.

“Defensively they are really athletic,” Keeler said. “They have the capability at coming up big and playing at a high level.”

Although it’s been a disappointing season for the Cowboys, they have a chance to salvage it with a win on Saturday. They will be traveling to Huntsville with revenge on their mind, as they prepare to take on the nation’s number one team.

The Bearkats will take on the Cowboys on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Bowers Stadium.

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