Bearkats come up short in FBS debut against BYU

Sep. 3—PROVO, Utah — Despite having every chance to make something happen offensively, the Sam Houston offense struggled to move the ball and came up just short against Brigham Young University in the Kats FBS opener.

The Bearkats hung with the Cougars, but ultimately fell short as the Cougars grabbed a 14-0 win in their BIG 12 opener.

"We didn't play clean enough to win. I said if we play well on special teams and play clean we would have a chance to win," Sam Houston head coach K.C. Keeler said. "There are no moral victories. We played hard but that is who we are. We have to battle to get this thing fixed."

Sam Houston turned to senior quarterback Keegan Shoemaker for its offensive leader after winning the starting job in camp. Shoemaker's first drive looked positive to start but a bad snap on third-and-three sent Shoemaker scrambling for the football. He picked it up and was sacked for a 12-yard loss and that summed up the game.

The Bearkats offense was unable to move the ball for a majority of the game but saw glimpses of being a solid squad.

"The defense played great and as an offense we need to play cleaner and that starts with me," Shoemaker said. "We have to make the most of our opportunity and we didn't."

Shoemaker made some good reads and found Charles Crawford III and Malik Phillips on back-to-back attempts to give the Kats some life. With a run game that never took off, the Kats drives stalled on nearly every occasion as they punted the ball 10 times.

Without a run game, Shoemaker had to make plays on his own. He was able to throw the ball for 147 yards in the game but threw an interception in the endzone — the only trip the Bearkats had to the redzone.

Shoemaker was charged with a second interception to BYU's Jakob Robinson, but the call was highly questionable as SHSU head coach K.C. Keeler gave the head official an ear full. Shoemaker threw three interceptions in the game as the final one came in the closing minutes.

"We tried to play with a little more tempo, it just seemed that the game was moving a little too fast for us," Keeler said. "I thought their crowd was hampering us a little bit. We felt like we gave them seven because we weren't getting lined up defensively and we gave some opportunities."

The run game was expected to be strong for the Bearkats but nothing came of it as the team had a rushing total of 38 yards on 24 carries.

The only reason that the Bearkats remained in the game was the way their defense played against the BYU offense, which is full of transfers and newcomers.

Sam Houston's defensive line created pressure with three Kats getting QB hurries, but could not get to Cougar quarterback Kedon Slovis.

Akeem "Meatball" Smith was one of those members in a hurry, along with mainstay Jevon Leon. The front three gave BYU all they could handle as they tallied 113 yards on the ground on 33 attempts — which is an average of 3.4 yards per carry.

Sam Houston linebacker Trevor Williams was another big factor in his return to the Bearkats lineup, he led both squads with 13 total tackles and was able to wrap up a tackle for loss in the mix.

The secondary was key as well, Sam Houston's defensive backs forced five pass breakups with Da'Veawn Armstead getting two against Cougar receivers.

One thing that showed was the Sam Houston defense was able to play with its backs against the wall as BYU opened the game with an eight-play, 50-yard drive that ended with a touchdown run by Slovis.

Sam Houston would then hold BYU at seven points until the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, when Slovis ran another ball in for a touchdown.

"That is the mindset that you need to have every drive and every play," Williams said. "For us as a defense, our job is to get off the field and give the ball back to the offense. Our job is to get off the field, that is our mindset."

Mistakes played another big role in the loss for Sam Houston.

On the Cougar's final scoring drive, the Bearkats had them stopped for a field goal that was blocked by Dakerric Hobbs and picked up and returned for 60 yards to set the Kats up, but a yellow flag was on the turf.

The play was called off for offsides on Armstead, and the Cougars picked up a first down on the fourth-and-one-play that ensued.

While the Bearkats played a relatively clean game committing seven penalties, they came at some of the worst times and either extended BYU drives or stopped their own in the tracks.

Now, the Bearkats will have to continue its tough schedule as they will return to Texas for an anticipated matchup against Air Force.