SHSU Bearkats axe SFA Lumberjacks, 51-43
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 00:10
In front of a record crowd of 26,185 fans, the Sam Houston State football team claimed their second Battle of the Piney Woods title with a 51-43 win at Reliant Stadium in Houston Saturday.
Brian Bell and the Bearkats were able to win in spite of Stephen F. Austin’s quarterback Brady Attaway, who threw the ball 76 times, totaled 545 yards and threw for six touchdowns, keeping the Sam Houston secondary extremely busy.
“It was a really exciting game,” Kats head coach Willie Fritz said. “It was a tough, hard-faught victory. I’m just really proud of the effort and the never-say attitude the kids had.”
Bell totaled 168 passing yards and threw three touchdowns, for the second week in a row. He also had 69 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in what was easily his best performance of the season.
”Brian Bell…he’s a winner,” SFA head coach J.C. Harper said. “He’s a fighter and a competitor.”
The Lumberjacks (2-3, 1-1 SLC) outscored the Bearkats (3-2, 1-1 SLC) 15-7 in the fourth quarter to put the Bearkats’ lead at only eight, but their rally fell short after they could not convert on a fourth down with under a minute remaining in the game.
“We made good football plays,” Harper said. “We just ran out of time.”
Attaway and wide receiver Cordell Roberson led the charge. Roberson had 14 catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the number one receiver in SFA history for most catches (206). He also became only the fifth wide receiver in Southland Conference history to catch more than 200 passes.
“It felt good,” Roberson said. “We battled and we never gave up. We gave it our all out there. We can’t change the outcome of it but we can learn from it.”
The Bearkat defense also looked impressive in the game. The first of two interceptions, a 92-yard return for a touchdown by Bookie Sneed in the second quarter became the longest in school history. The previous record, set in 1968, was held by Paul Wenzel with a 90-yard return.
"They're a passing team. That's what SFA does," Sneed said. "They have pretty good wideouts so we were expecting [it]. They really started throwing a lot at the end. We just buckled down and got the job done."
Cornerback Dax Swanson is closing in on Ronnie Choat’s previous record of 13 interceptions by a Bearkat that has held for more than 50 years. He had one Saturday, but it was called back due to pass interference. Swanson needs one to tie the record and two to break it.
“I wouldn’t want any other defense out there other than my defense,” Bell said. “Our defense, in my opinion, is one of the best in the nation.”
Special teams were another factor for the Bearkats, who had a blocked field goal and a fake field goal for a touchdown. Punter Matt Foster averaged 40.2 yards per punt.
The Bearkat offense was folding under the powerful Lumberjack defense, who forced fumbles from SHSU running back Tim Flanders on back-to-back drives. The Jacks were able to capitalize on these mistakes, scoring two straight touchdowns to put Sam Houston in a 14-3 hole.
The Bearkats responded by scoring 20 unanswered points in the second quarter to lead 23-14 at the half.
Once the Lumberjacks got the ball back to start the second half, they scored a quick touchdown to make the score 23-21, which was the slimmest lead held by Sam Houston all day.
However, the Bearkats had absolutely no trouble scoring in the third quarter, racking up three touchdowns to lead the game 44-28 by the beginning of the fourth quarter. Bell targeted Diller, who led the Bearkats in receiving with 97 yards, and Torrance Williams, who had missed the previous two weeks due to a calf strain.
Williams’ catch ended up as the number two play on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays, making this the second Battle of the Piney Woods game to feature a Top Play. Last year’s Top Play was the unforgettable “Flanders Flip.”
Flanders finished the day with a total of 125 yards, as he continues to set the bar higher and higher for future Sam Houston running backs.
Since the Battle of the Piney Woods game moved to Reliant Stadium in 2010, attendance has gone up. This year’s game featured over one thousand more fans than last year’s total of 25, 083, which was also a record for the game.
The Bearkats will continue conference play this Saturday against Nichols State in Louisiana. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.