Bearkats hope to mirror 2012 conference run
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 22:10
Sam Houston State isn’t foreign to battling from behind.
The No. 7 Bearkats launched their 2012 Southland Conference campaign 0-1 after Central Arkansas’ upset 24-20 victory, extending the then No. 3 ranked squad to a season record of 1-2.
But following the week-three blunder, SHSU head coach Willie Fritz and company bulldozed through conference opponents with a commission to claim a shared league title alongside UCA to kick-start their second consecutive trip to the NCAA FCS Division I National Championship.
Now approaching Northwestern State with a 1-1 conference record in week eight, Fritz said his squad sits in a better situation compared to last season.
“It was a much more difficult season last year,” he said.
Contrary to this season’s home-heavy schedule, the Bearkats reclaimed their rise to FCS prominence last season on the road claiming five of their six conference games playing away.
SHSU (5-2) will return to Bowers Stadium Saturday in an effort to regain their step within league standings after an uncharacteristic performance against McNeese State in week seven. The Cowboys exposed holes in the Bearkat secondary, splitting defensive backs Desmond Fite, DeAntrey Loche and Bookie Sneed to knock off the No. 2 Bearkats 31-23.
With Northwestern’s new coaching staff and a rapid-fire, pass-happy offensive playbook, SHSU defensive backs have a long weekend ahead of them.
Demons’ head coach Jay Thomas said following Saturday’s 37-22 loss against Southeastern Louisiana that a win against SHSU is within reach for his squad.
"We've got five games to go, and we'll take them one at a time,” Thomas said in Saturday’s press conference. “We've got a good football team. Let's clean up the mistakes, go over to Sam Houston, and win the game. It can be done. Anything can happen.”
Northwestern’s short route approach has tallied 1,535 yards with a 61 percent pass completion rate. Quarterback Zach Adkins has maintained a strong efficiency rating in his position with three games including Southern University, Langston University and Southeastern Louisiana where he accounted for multiple touchdowns coupled with 200-plus passing yards.
The Demons have maintained a balanced pass-rush offensive scheme with a diverse cast of running backs.
Fritz said although the Demons’ mimic a similar offensive style as the Bearkats, the focal point for his defense is to remain assignment sound.
“The eyes are the most important physical attribute a football player has,” he said. “If your eyes are in the wrong place you’re going to miss your coverage.”
Fritz added for his team to mirror a similar conference run from last season, keeping previous games out of body and mind will block out chatter surrounding the Bearkats’ questionable return to Frisco.
“It’s a long season in some regards, and it’s a quick season in some regards,” he said. “I believe teams that dwell on losses and celebrate on victories are the ones that get the most upset. When you go to a next opponent, you turn the page.”
SHSU’s running game has suffered in conference play. All-American running back Timothy Flanders has totaled a bare 105-yards rushing following an impressive effort to start the season averaging 100 plus yards per game.
Quarterback Brian Bell leads the Bearkats’ offensive production, accounting for 28 of SHSU’s 37 points against conference opponents.
Fritz attributes his team’s slow conference start to the improvement of the league and conference opponents.
“We got to bring our A-game each and every week,” he said. “We got to worry about each team each week and not put the cart before the horse and not worry about what’s down the line. That’s when you get beat.”
Kickoff will be underway at 2 p.m.