‘A tale of two halves,’ SHSU holds onto early lead in 45-42 victory
Published: Sunday, December 16, 2012
Updated: Sunday, December 16, 2012 16:12
Beginning the season 1-2 going into the heart of their conference schedule, a repeat championship season was not expected from the Bearkats going into the 2012 FCS Division I playoffs.
Sam Houston State will repeat their trip to Frisco, TX to face North Dakota State for the second consecutive season after the Bearkats defeated Eastern Washington in the semifinals 45-42 in Cheney, Wash. Saturday afternoon.
Running back Timothy Flanders conducted SHSU’s offense early, bouncing outside to the perimeter and finding open ground on the sidelines before wearing out Eastern Washington’s defensive line ripping up the middle. Flanders rushed for a season high against the Eagle’s with 237 yards on 34 touches.
“We were clicking on all cylinders offensively and playing really well defensively,” SHSU head coach Willie Fritz said.
Quarterback Brian Bell set the stage for the Flanders with two rushing touchdowns and exposing Eastern Washington’s defensive line, and lack of speed in the secondary, with a 72 yard sprint downfield to give SHSU a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Eastern Washington came out of the tunnel firing in the second half.
“We got a little stagnant, a little too conservative,” Fritz said.
SHSU’s secondary had trouble containing Eagle’s receiver Brandon Kaufman as he found open slots for three touchdowns, showcasing Eastern Washington’s air attack. SHSU handed Eastern Washington 125 yards with 12 penalties primarily on Bearkat cornerbacks.
“They have a good receiver group, probably the best we’ve seen all year,” safety Robert Shaw said. “We knew they were going to make plays but we had to overcome adversity and make bigger plays.”
Eastern Washington would outscore SHSU 42-10 in the second half with 364 yards in the air from freshman quarterback Vernon Adams.
Shaw had two crucial interceptions, one returned for a touchdown in the first quarter that halted Eagle momentum and kept Eastern Washington off the board in the first half.
Dax Swanson stopped Eastern Washington’s drive in the fourth quarter with an interception in Eagle territory, keeping the Eagle offense off the field to allow Bell and company shave time off the clock.
Swanson’s interception gave the senior cornerback 14 career interceptions which secured SHSU’s most all-time career interceptions.
SHSU is set to face defending champion North Dakota State in the 2012 FCS Division I Championship in Frisco Jan. 5. NDSU scraped by Georgia Southern Friday with a last minute 5-yard quarterback keeper from Brock Jensen Friday night.
The New Year’s matchup will be a rematch of the 2011 FCS championship where the Bearkats fell short to the Bison 17-6.
“It won’t feel that much good until we get the job done and the national championship,” Shaw said.
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