The Sam Houston State University football team took the field Saturday for Senior Day and defeated the Houston Baptist University Huskies 53-33.
The 86-point shootout had a slow start as the two teams traded three-and-outs to begin the game. Senior defensive lineman P.J. Hall penetrated the HBU backfield to sack freshman quarterback Bailey Zappe and force a fourth down.
On the Kats’ ensuing possession, the offense propelled down the field thanks to a 41-yard completion from senior quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe to senior receiver Yedidiah Louis that spotted the ball at one yard line. Briscoe tucked the ball and scored on a QB sneak for his third rushing touchdown of the year to give SHSU a 7-0 lead with 11:02 left in the first quarter.
The Huskies found themselves facing a fourth down and five at the SHSU 17-yard line. Following a time out, HBU’s offense stayed on the field to try and convert, but an incomplete pass forced a turnover on downs.
With the shutout still in tact, the Kats’ offense hit the field and produced another huge play, this time on a 60-yard run by senior running back Corey Avery to the HBU 12-yard line. Two plays later, Briscoe found Louis in the end zone to push the lead to 13-0 with 4:21 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Kats defense posted another three-and-out with a strong stand to force a punt, and the offense took over at its own 31. The Huskies defense made an impact of their own with an interception by senior defensive end Taaron Timmons. HBU employed some trickery on its offensive possession as senior running back Terrance Peters threw a touchdown pass to Zappe to close the gap to 13-7 with 1:36 left in the first.
SHSU answered with a quick 22-second drive as Briscoe hooked up with junior wide receiver Davion Davis for a 67-yard catch and run for a touchdown to make it 20-7 with 1:14 left in the first quarter. The Bearkats closed out the first quarter with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Briscoe to sophomore receiver Nathan Stewart. SHSU took a 26-7 lead into the second quarter.
“This was an emotional game for me just as much as it was for Briscoe and all the other seniors,” Stewart said. “I never experienced a quarterback that was as experienced as Briscoe. I know he wanted to go out on the right foot and I told him before the game ‘I’m here for you.’”
The defense went right back to work, forcing a three-and-out once again on a drive that lasted 25 seconds and yielded zero positive yards. After a series of back-and-forth punts, the Huskies lined up to attempt a 52-yard field goal that was blocked by Hall. That kick block was No. 14 or Hall’s career, a new SHSU record.
“It’s all about effort,” Hall said. “Our coach makes sure we never take a play off.”
The blocked kick gave the Bearkat offense great field position, and Briscoe capitalized on the opportunity as he found Nathan Stewart for a 39-yard touchdown strike. SHSU had a controlling 33-7 lead at that point with 4:59 in the second quarter.
The Huskies were able to pick up a chunk of yardage on a 61-yard pass from Zappe to junior receiver David Racine to move HBU into the red zone. A pass interference penalty gave the Huskies a first down and goal at the SHSU two-yard line. It took just one play to reach the end zone from there as Zappe found Mev Adjin for a touchdown, cutting the SHSU lead to 33-14 with 2:06 to go in the first half.
Avery kept the ground game rolling with a 29-yard run across midfield. Another defensive miscue, this time a facemask penalty on the Huskies, gave SHSU a first down and goal at the HBU two-yard line. With time running short, and the Kats out of timeouts, they were forced to attempt a field goal that got blocked by the Huskies. The first half ended with SHSU leading HBU 33-14.
The Huskies received the second half kickoff and we unable to get anything going offensively as they punted away to SHSU. Briscoe and Stewart remained in sync, connecting for 51 yards down the sideline to the HBU 15-yard line. Junior kicker Tre Hohnstein tacked on three points with a 27-yard field goal to make it 36-14 with 12:04 in the third quarter.
HBU responded with a drive that took three-and-a-half minutes off the clock and was capped off by a 23-yard touchdown pass from Zappe to Peters that closed the gap to 36-21 with 8:36 left in the third.
The Bearkats responded with a 63-yard touchdown pass from Briscoe to Stewart to extend their lead to 43-21 with 7:35 left in the third quarter.
“I’ll say it again; we have the best receiving core in the country,” Briscoe said. “We had three guys over 100 yards. This guy [Stewart] with three touchdowns, you just never know. They are all so unselfish.”
After an exchange of possessions, Hohnstein hit a field goal to make it 46-21 as the game went to the fourth quarter. The Kats immediately got the ball after recovering a Huskies fumble on the ensuing kickoff. SHSU took over on the HBU 14-yard line, eventually leading to junior running back Jordan Brown’s rushing touchdown to make it 53-21 with 14:53 remaining in the game.
SHSU’s defense continued its strong showing by forcing another punt that gave the Kats back the ball with 13:31 on the clock. HBU continued to try and claw their way back as they added another touchdown with a 12-yard run by Isaiah Hill. A missed extra point made it 53-27 with 9:56 in the fourth. The Huskies string of unanswered points continued as Zappe found Racine for an 11-yard touchdown pass. The point after try was missed again, and the score was SHSU 53- HBU 33 with 3:52 remaining.
“I didn’t think their offense could generate as much offense as they did,” head coach K.C. Keeler said. “I’m a little disappointed in terms of the points we gave up, but at the same time there were a lot of short fields because of them having the wind those two quarters.”
A pair of Bearkat seniors reached milestones as Briscoe became just the third Southland Conference quarterback to eclipse 10,000 passing yards in his career. Avery surpassed 3,000 rushing yards for his collegiate career to join Timothy Flanders as the only Bearkats to accomplish that feat.
“I think this senior class is something that is really important to us,” Briscoe said. “If you look at this senior class, they have made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the playoffs every year, so these seniors know what it takes to win.”
SHSU finished 2017 10-1 to cap off a string of four consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. With the regular season now behind them, the Bearkats turn their attention to the playoffs.
“I’m excited about the playoffs,” Keeler said. “We would just like to have a bye because we just got done playing nine straight. I think we are feeling the effects of that. We’d like to play at home. After that, we don’t really care.”
The FCS playoff bracket will be announced tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. on ESPNU.
Full highlights from SHSU’s win over HBU: