The Sam Houston Bearkats hoisted their National Championship flag in front of a rowdy 7,728 fans in their return to Bowers Stadium for the first time this season and did not disappoint, routing the Southeast Missouri State University Redhawks 52-14 on Saturday evening.
The Bearkats got it done every which way, totaling 297 yards on the ground with junior running back Ramon Jefferson plowing his way to a career-high 153 yards and two touchdowns. Junior quarterback Eric Schmid posted 243 yards through the air to go with three touchdowns, and senior cornerback Jaylen Thomas took an interception back 49 yards for a touchdown.
Senior defensive back Tristin McCollum blocked a field goal with less than four minutes left in the first half, which shifted the momentum for the Bearkats. On the next play, Jefferson took a run up the middle and broke two tackles to break free for a 70-yard touchdown to break the 14-14 tie and put the Bearkats up by seven.
From there, SEMO got the ball back but the defense stepped up this time around, with the senior preseason All-WAC cornerback Thomas picking off a CJ Ogbonna pass and taking it back for a pick-six. The Bearkats then forced a SEMO three and out and marched down the field to set up Seth Morgan for a career-long 50-yard field goal. The Bearkats would go into halftime, leading 31-14.
The Bearkats marched down the field on their first possession of the game with Jefferson having runs of 21 and 18 yards, and Schmid finding graduate wide receiver Cody Chrest for a 17-yard completion that set the Bearkats up on the 1-yard line for Ramon Jefferson to barrel in for his first touchdown of the night. The Redhawks answered right back with a touchdown of their own.
“I told the players this is a great example of how everyone is going to give you their best shot,” head coach K.C. Keeler said after the game. “They (SEMO) made some great plays early on to keep themselves in the game, but we did not panic, and we got rolling and started playing some good offense and defense. It’s pretty obvious we do not panic under pressure.”
The second half was a different story. The Bearkat defense pitched a shutout while the offense found the end zone three more times.
SEMO came out of halftime and immediately attempted an onside kick which they recovered. The Bearkat defense, however, was not fazed as it held them to another three and out. In the following possession, freshman quarterback Trapper Pannell came in with the starter Schmid lined up out wide, faked a handoff to Schmid and then took off 77 yards to the endzone.
With the Bearkats up 38-14, their next two drives also ended in touchdowns of their own. Schmid found sophomore wide receiver Ife Adeyi for a 3-yard touchdown grab. The following drive ended with a 42-yard touchdown strike to sophomore wide receiver Chandler Harvin, which would be the starters last drive of the game.
With the Bearkats piling up over 500 total yards of offense and 52 points Keeler was still not fully pleased.
“We need to play cleaner, the numbers are impressive, but they should be even more impressive,” Keeler said. “We also felt that this offensive line is getting better and better the more they play together, we feel that we are beginning to be able to run the ball at you. That is something I put on the offensive staff at the end of last season, we need to be able to run at people and that was definitely a point of emphasis.”
Sam Houston will now enjoy an off week before heading to Conway, Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 25 to take on the University of Central Arkansas Bears.