Sam Houston State Football enters 2014 at number 10 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 9-5 (4-3) Southland Conference
The Bearkats finished third in the Southland Conference last season behind Southeastern Louisiana and McNeese State. Safe to say though, they would’ve won the title in almost any other conference in the FCS – they were that good. One of their losses was to reigning Heisman winner Johnny Football at Texas A&M. Understandable. The next was at McNeese State, 31-23. Then, in the final two weeks of the regular season, the Bearkats suffered two losses – away games at Southeastern Louisiana and Central Arkansas.
Despite the four losses, Sam Houston State football earned an at-large berth in the FCS playoffs and won their first game 51-20 over Southern Utah. In the second round they visited a familiar foe, the same Southeastern Louisiana team they lost to only three weeks prior, and up six in the final minute, it looked like the Bearkats would avenge the 34-21 loss they suffered the last time they visited Hammond. Until the Lions’ Bryan Bennett lead his team 86 yards for the go-ahead TD with only 36 seconds remaining, ending the Bearkats’ season.
-Timothy Flanders RB – Second team FCS All-American, 241 carries, 1,478 yards, 14 TDs
-Brian Bell QB – 171/307 passing (55.7%), 2,490 yards, 32 TDs, 10 INTs, 108 carries, 708 yards, 9 TDs
-Torrance Williams WR – 55 catches, 964 yards, 12 TDs, 29 punt returns, 464 yards (16 yard average)
-Andrew Weaver DE – 44 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 2 FFs, 2 blocked kicks
-Tanner Brock LB – 111 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR
-Eric Fieilo LB – 103 tackles, 7 TFL, 2 sacks
-De’Antrey Loche CB – 39 tackles, 3 INTs, 15 passes defended, 2 blocked kicks
-Bookie Sneed CB – 66 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 14 passes defended
What to Watch For
New Top ‘Kat – After three years as head coach of the Bearkats, Willie Fritz left his post this offseason for the top job at Georgia Southern, and SHSU found his replacement in former Delaware head coach KC Keeler. It seems to be a good time for a new head coach to step in, now that QB Brian Bell, top rusher Timothy Flanders, and top receiver Torrance Williams have graduated. Keeler’s been a head coach since 1993 (nine years at Rowan and 11 at Delaware) and built an impressive 174-73-1 record in that time. In 2003 he lead Delaware to a D1-AA national title, and was named both AFCA Coach of the Year and Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year in 2010. With so many new starters, he’ll have a chance to shape the new starters and the team as he sees fit
Things are a little up in the air for SHSU this season. Coming off a season in which they finished fourth in the FCS in scoring (41.1 ppg), they’re in a good spot with their offensive line. Four starters return to a unit that lead the Bearkats to the sixth best rushing attack in the FCS last season (265 ypg). New coaches like KC Keeler love old lines. Especially when that new coach gets to install his own skill players and his own system. Expect some growing pains, but ultimately this change will be good for the Bearkats – it’s just a question of how long that will take.