Sam Houston State University football upset the No. 9 Nicholls Colonels 17-0 to win their eleventh consecutive Homecoming game and jump to first place in the Southland Conference.
The victory was a bounce back performance for SHSU coming off a demoralizing triple overtime loss to Lamar last week.
“We’re coming after everybody,” head coach K.C. Keeler said. “That’s kind of the mindset our kids have. We just have to go find a way to win. We couldn’t find a way to win last week, and they could have easily folded their hands, and they didn’t. [This is] one of the special victories in my career.”
After the Bearkats defense forced a quick Nicholls punt on the opening drive of the game, the offense took the field with a variety of quarterback packages that kept the Colonels’ defense off balance all day.
Freshman wide receiver Ryan Humphries came into the game and showed off his athleticism by playing quarterback, running a few plays on the ground for 16 yards that eventually set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Ty Brock to junior receiver Brennon Tibbs—his first of the year— giving the Kats a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
“We went into this thing saying ‘We’re going to play defense and we’re going to play three quarterbacks,’” Keeler said. “We’re going to have a package for Noah [Smith], a package for [Humphries] and a package for Ty [Brock]. We have five quarterbacks on scholarship; all five are hurt. The frustrating part is I know how good my football team is, and we have just come up against it at the quarterback spot.”
The Kats offense played their packages well, with Humphries leading the ground game with 39 yards on 11 carries and Brock leading the air assault with 116 yards and a touchdown. Humphries also had an impact with his arm, completing five of his six passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Humphries credited his teammates and the guys around him for his success against one of the best teams in the nation.
After allowing an early second quarter field goal to the Kats, Nicholls needed to bounce back— only to encounter a Bearkats defense that was relentlessly ready to play. A sack by senior Royce See forced a punt, and things went downhill from there for the Colonels.
Their next offensive position was a one-and-done play as junior Zyon McCollum forced a fumble that was recovered by senior linebacker Hunter Brown midway through the second quarter.
“Coach Carlin [defensive coordinator] preaches every day swarming and competing,” Brown said. “Our guys do a great job of holding each other to a high standard. We were swarming and giving relentless effort.”
Another stop by the Kats on fourth down forced a turnover on downs as graduate defensive back Dwayne Williams made a momentum-halting tackle.
In the third quarter, sophomore defensive back Ke’Shon Murray intercepted a pass at the Colonels’ 47-yard line, setting up the Kats for a one-play touchdown connection from Humphries to freshman receiver Ife Adeyi, giving the Kats a 17-0 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been working on that play all week,” Humphries said. “There are a lot of moving parts. The offensive line [got] out in front of Ife who is the fastest guy on the field, and it’s tough as a defense with all those moving parts.”
With nine minutes left in the game, the Kats had an opportunity to end any likely chance of a comeback. SHSU stopped Nicholls’ fourth down run for a turnover on downs, and the Colonels were never able to get anything going after that.
The Kats ran 61 plays and put up 295 yards of total offense. The game was won on turnovers and in the red zone, where SHSU scored on two of its three trips. Senior tight end Woody Brandom led the team in receptions with five for 90 yards, while Adeyi and Tibbs each scored a touchdown and Nathan Stewart finished the game without a catch for the first time in his collegiate career.
The Kats defense never let up, limiting the Colonels to 271 total yards. Dating back to last week against Lamar, SHSU’s defense has not been scored on in eight consecutive quarters of regulation.
Brown tallied 10 tackles and a fumble recovery and See added on 10 tackles of his own to go with his 1.5 sacks. An interception and a pair of fumble recoveries allowed SHSU to win the turnover battle three to zero.
“I think this defense is playing as well as any defense in the country,” Keeler said. “They don’t panic. Hunter and Royce really just take control of that whole defense.”
The Kats will travel to Conway, Arkansas to play the University of Central Arkansas Bears (3-1) on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m.