Sam Houston State University football opened up Southland Conference play by defeating the 2018 SLC co-champion University of The Incarnate Word Cardinals 45-6.
“That was a really good football team we just took apart,” head coach K.C. Keeler said. “And we took them apart. That was pretty impressive.”
The Bearkats set the tone from their opening possession when the defense forced a turnover on downs. Sophomore quarterback Eric Schmid needed just one snap to find Dee Bowens for a 64-yard catch-and-run touchdown to grab a 7-0 lead. Bowens finished his day with five catches for 108 yards and a touchdown.
The Kats never looked back after that as Schmid had a career day, going 29/44 for 531 yards with five touchdowns.
“It was great to see Eric have the day he had,” Keeler said. “We had to make a decision [about the starting quarterback situation]. Splitting the first team reps was not a good way to develop a quarterback. As you can see, he can throw the ball pretty well.”
Senior receiver Nathan Stewart stole the show with his fourth career three-touchdown game and set a new Southland Conference record. On the final play of the fourth quarter, SHSU faced a 4th-and-1 situation. Schmid connected with Stewart for the first down and more as the star wideout took it 49 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. His second scoring grab came in the second quarter from 20 yards out when Schmid escaped pressure and delivered a strike to end zone.
With seven minutes left in the second quarter, Stewart caught a 44-yard pass that not only got SHSU into the red zone, but gave him sole possession of the Southland Conference career receiving yards record that was previously owned by Stewart’s former teammate and Bearkat legend Yedidiah Louis.
“To hold that record, man, that’s a big blessing,” Stewart said. “I take my hats off to the coaches and players for believing in me.”
Stewart’s third touchdown reception came right before halftime on a 32-yard dart from Schmid that gave SHSU a 31-0 lead heading into the locker room for halftime.
The second half belonged to freshman receiver Ife Adeyi and sophomore running back Donovan Williams, who each had a pair of touchdowns. Adeyi used an 80-yard touchdown reception to put up an impressive 119 yards on six catches. Williams punched it in from one yard on the first drive of the fourth quarter to push SHSU’s lead to 45-0.
A late touchdown negated the shutout, but the Kats ultimately downed the Cardinals 45-6 under the lights at Bowers Stadium.
Thanks to Schmid and his variety of offensive weapons, SHSU compiled over 600 yards of total offense for the first time since its 54-42 win over South Dakota in the FCS Playoffs Dec. 2, 2017.
Despite allowing 418 yards to the Cardinals, the SHSU defense stood strong when it mattered most. UIW was just 5/19 on third down, and the secondary forced a couple of takeaways.
Jaylen Thomas and Zyon McCollum each had an interception, and senior linebacker Hunter Brown notched 11 tackles (two of them for a loss).
Their next test will be their first Southland showdown on the road Sept. 28 at McNeese.
“Our kids love playing at home,” Keeler said. “But I can tell you this, when we traveled to North Dakota and New Mexico, I’ve never seen a team travel this well. We traveled really well. We didn’t play as well as we had to… but our guys will be ready to go play.”
After that, the Bearkats will be at NRG Stadium in Houston to face SFA in the Battle of the Piney Woods Oct. 5.