Sam Houston State head coach K.C. Keeler said this week that looking at this James Madison team is like looking in the mirror. The Dukes do similar things on offense, both teams have star athletes on defense, and both are perennial powerhouses.
There's another thing they both have in common: They're the only two teams left in the FCS Playoff Quarterfinals who are undefeated against FCS competition. They are a combined 23-0 against the Football Championship Subdivision in 2016, to be exact. Even the top two FCS seeds, North Dakota State and Eastern Washington, can't say that.
This one has all the signs of one of those games that has seven points differentiating the two teams. Wonderful matchups abound: The potential of James Madison's NFL prospect at cornerback, Taylor Reynolds, going against one of the most exciting wide receivers in college football in Sam Houston State's Yedidiah Louis. Or how about the Bearkats' stellar D-lineman P.J. Hall going against what has turned out to be a great offensive line for the Dukes, led by tackle Mitch Hirsch?
Sam Houston State 'goes up to get it' as well as anybody in the nation, and James Madison's DBs say they can't wait for the challenge (SHSU athletics)
It's a dream matchup. Keeler knows all about playing against James Madison after being at Delaware for 12 seasons.
"Defensively they're very athletic, they're what you think of with a James Madison defense in that they really run to the ball," Keeler said on this week's teleconference. "I like their linebackers a lot and they have a couple of guys who can rush the passer up front and a very good secondary … I recruited Taylor Reynolds out of Delaware and he was a great kid. I just saw a picture of him in the media guide and he has filled out, which is a credit to their training staff … We think we're playing our equal, and we think this will be one of those three-point or seven-point games."
Reynolds has a lot of respect for the Bearkats, too. A NFL Draft prospect for 2017, he knows he's going against another potential NFL pick in quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe–who is trending upwards with the 2018 NFL Draft class according to NFLDraftScout.com.
"I see this team throws the ball around a lot, and there's an opportunity to make some plays when the ball is in the air," Reynolds told HERO Sports this week. "It's an opportunity to show our coverage skills, from the linebackers and defensive backs' perspective. It'll allow our D-linemen to pass rush and come off the edge hot. This is a game that we are looking forward to. They have a lot of weapons. We're all excited to be on the national TV big stage, but once again in the back of our minds it's another game and another week."
Reynolds' partner in crime on defense, junior defensive lineman and fellow NFL Draft prospect for 2018 Andrew Ankrah, agreed with Reynolds' assessment.
"What I like about what Sam Houston State does is the quarterback (Briscoe) from what I saw, he makes accurate throws and throws a great deep ball," Ankrah told HERO Sports this week. "It'll give us a chance to pass rush and get to him. It's a good opportunity for us as a defensive line to get back there and make some plays and then get off the field. I'm really looking forward to it."
Game on, folks.