After a crazy week of rescheduling due to Hurricane Harvey, the highly anticipated football game between the No. 3 Sam Houston State Bearkats and the No.7 Richmond Spiders finally took place Friday night at Baylor University’s McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas.
The Kats secured the top-ten victory, downing the Spiders 48-34 behind a strong performance from senior quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe. Here’s how it happened:
SHSU Struggles Early
The Bearkats’ potent offense from a season ago was halted early by a turnover on their first drive of the game. Their second drive began on their own two-yard line following an excellent punt by the Spiders. Briscoe marched the Bearkats down the field to the Richmond nine-yard line, but the Kats were unable to punch it into the endzone and had to settle for a field goal. Another drive began after a dynamic interception in the redzone by junior safety Josh Price. However, the Bearkats were able to cover the spread after a would-be touchdown was negated by a holding penalty causing the SHSU to once again settle for three points.
Special Teams Woes
After early struggles for both offenses, the Spiders were able get on the board, thanks in large part to a 69-yard connection from senior quarterback Kyle Lauletta to sophomore wide receiver Cortrelle Simpson, which setup a three-yard touchdown strike from Lauletta to senior tight end Garrett Hudson. However, the Spiders missed the extra point, marking the first special teams miscue of the night and keeping the game tied at six with 52 seconds left in the first quarter. After an ensuing Bearkat touchdown, SHSU allowed the extra point to be blocked, keeping the game within six points. The following drive spelled trouble for the Spiders as a punt attempt turned catastrophic when the snap went over the punter’s head and into the endzone for a Bearkat safety, extending SHSU’s lead to 14-6 with 12:32 left in the second quarter. A few drives later, the Bearkats missed another extra point, adding to the team’s first half blunders. The Spiders miscues would continue, however, as a blocked punt with 58 seconds left in the half turned into a Bearkat touchdown, giving SHSU a 41-20 lead going into halftime.
Wild End to the First Half
The Bearkats were clinging to a 21-13 lead with just four minutes remaining in the opening half. With 3:34 left on the game clock, Briscoe connected with sophomore wide receiver Coree Compton for a 12-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 27-13. The Spiders responded quickly with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Lauletta to junior wide receiver Dejon Brissett, which closed the gap to 27-20 with 1:57 on the game clock. It only took the Bearkats 29 seconds to get those points back as Briscoe found junior wide receiver Davion Davis for 60-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive. The Bearkat defense stepped up on the following drive and forced a three-and-out. The Spiders’ punt was blocked and recovered for a Bearkat touchdown, which allowed SHSU to take a 41-20 lead going into the locker room.
Bearkats Look to Pull Away
Spearheaded by a 35 point third quarter, the Bearkats looked ready to put the Spiders away. Leading by 21 points to start the third quarter, the Bearkats showed no signs of slowing down. The defense kept the Spiders off the board on its first drive, and Briscoe and the offense did not take long, just 1:57 to be exact, to find the end zone on a 35-yard pass to senior running back Corey Avery, pushing SHSU’s lead to 48-20. The Bearkats stopped the Richmond offense again on the next drive, and it looked like the Bearkats were about to put the game away, but then the Bearkats offense began to sputter.
Spiders Make it Interesting
As the Bearkats high-octane offense began to slow down, the Spiders jumped at their opportunity to spark a comeback attempt. A Briscoe interception gave the Spiders a short field, and it took Richmond just one play for Lauletta to find junior wide receiver Caleb Drake for a 16-yard touchdown to make it 48-27 with 3:27 left in the third quarter. The 21 point lead began to seem slim with the Bearkat offense struggling to move the ball and Lauletta continuing to carve up the Bearkat secondary.
“We made some real critical mistakes,” head coach K.C. Keeler said. “We were fatigued and weren’t getting assigned properly, but I don’t think it was the play calling as much as it was the execution.”
With 10:40 left in the fourth quarter, Lauletta targeted Simpson again and connected for a 71-yard touchdown pass to cut the Bearkat lead to 14 points.
“We could’ve put that game away a lot earlier,” Briscoe said. “It leaves a bad taste in my mouth since we didn’t. We should’ve put that game away two drives after halftime.”
Defense Seals the Deal
Late in the game Lauletta was moving the Spider offense down the field at will, and it looked like the game could come down to the wire. With 4:03 left the Bearkats made a fourth down stop by forcing an incomplete pass at their own 27-yard line to get the ball back. The final nail in the coffin came with 2:03 left in the game when Price snagged his second redzone interception of the night.
“I was supposed to take the running back,” Price said. “But I saw the quarterback wasn’t even looking at him so I just read him and stayed where I was, and I was just in the right place at the right time.”
From there the Bearkats ran down the clock and walked out of McLane Stadium with their first victory of the 2017 campaign.
What looked like a comfortable win at one point turned into a shootout. Briscoe finished the game with 411 passing yards and five total touchdowns, four of which was through the air. For Richmond, Lauletta rewrote the record books by throwing for a school record 546 yards and five touchdowns.
The Bearkats will now travel to Prairie View to take on the Prairie View A&M Panthers on Sept. 7. The game is scheduled for national television on ESPNU and kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
Full press conference following SHSU’s win over Richmond: