Bearkats slip past Cal Poly, 18-16
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 00:12
Defensive takeaways and solid outing from the special teams secured a second round 18-16 victory for Sam Houston State against California Polytechnic Saturday at Bowers Stadium.
Kicker Miguel Antonio legged out 20, 32, and 26 yard field goals for nine points to lead the Bearkat offense over the Mustang’s lockdown defense.
“He’s taken a little bit of criticism [this season],” SHSU coach Willie Fritz said regarding Antonio. “We just knew he was a quality kicker and he’s had an outstanding season.”
According to Fritz, the first round bye-week derailed the Bearkats momentum going into the end of the regular season.
“We weren’t as sharp as we normally are,” Fritz said. “I might need to figure out what I’m doing with the bye-week; last year I thought we came out slow against Stony Brook.”
Cal Poly silenced SHSU’s offense early in the first quarter; allowing only 39 yards and one first down. After four consecutive scoreless drives, the Bearkats were on the board first with a blocked punt from running back Vincent Dotson that rolled into the back of the end zone for a safety. Two series following the blocked punt, running back Timothy Flanders drove downfield for 32 yards on five carries to set up Antonio for his first field goal.
Brian Bell and company struggled to gain momentum into the third quarter against Cal Poly’s secondary. Bell completed 2-12 passes for 16 yards at the end of the first half, and was unable to find receiver Trey Diller with Mustang cornerback Chris Fletcher’s lockdown coverage.
“I think [defensive coordinator] John Brown had a great scheme,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said. “I think our players executed the scheme, I thought we tackled better than we have the entire year…we did not let them make explosive plays. That’s what [SHSU] wants to do.”
Personal fouls plagued the Mustang defense in the second half, committing two personal fouls for 30 yards that set up Antonio’s second field goal.
According to Walsh, the costly penalties resulted from high intensity tackles.
“Those were hustle plays. Those guys were hustling to the football an trying to tackle to football,” Walsh said. “Sometimes when you do that, maybe the guy’s foot is out-of-bounds. Those were not intentional or deliberate. To me, one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard about the game of football, our guys played their tails off on those plays. In a game that is a physical of a football game, that fast of a football game, stuff happens.”
Cal Poly’s ground game narrowed SHSU’s eight point lead in the third quarter setting up two Mustang field goals.
With an 8-6 lead, Bell found running back Keshawn Hill for 18 yards to score the game’s first touchdown on the night to extend SHSU’s lead 15-6 going into the fourth quarter. Bell drove the Bearkats downfield again late in the fourth quarter to secure Antonio’s last field goal to give SHSU a nine point lead with 6:07 left on the clock.
The Mustangs completed a 50-yard pass to receiver Willie Tucker for a touchdown with 1:45 remaining but were unable to recover an onside kick that sealed a Bearkat victory.
“I think it was a very tough, hard fought, ball game [on] both sides,” Fritz said. “I’m really proud of our team [but] I don’t think we played exceptionally well.”
With Saturday’s victory, the Bearkats will travel to Bozeman, Mont. to square off against the Montana State Bobcats in the FCS Division I quarterfinals.
Kickoff will be underway Friday at 7 p.m. (central time) and will be broadcasted live on ESPN2.