FCS team of the week: Sam Houston State rises with defense


(STATS) - On Homecoming Day, Sam Houston State coach K.C. Keeler felt some of the program's former players wanted to come out of the stands to play a down with the current group of Bearkats.

The alums had to be impressed with the way the STATS FCS Team of the Week shut out ninth-ranked Nicholls 17-0 to grab a share of first place in the Southland Conference.

"They appreciate the way you play the game," Keeler told his team afterward. "You played it physical, you played it tough, you played every single snap like it was the most-important snap of the game because it was."

Sam Houston has enjoyed great success this decade - a winning record each season, seven FCS playoff appearances, two national runner-up finishes, three other trips to the semifinals and 97 wins - the second-most only to North Dakota State. So often the Bearkats have relied on high-powered offenses, but the defense has stepped forward this season.

Against Nicholls, it slowed down quarterback Chase Fourcade, the 2018 Southland player of the year, forced three turnovers and allowed just 271 offensive yards to hand the Colonels their first conference defeat. Hunter Brown had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery while fellow linebacker Royce See collected 10 tackles and 1½ sacks, also forcing a fumble that was recovered by Brown's backup, Danzell Sims.

In four home games, the Bearkats have allowed only one touchdown in regulation time, and that came with a 45-0 fourth-quarter lead against UIW, the other Southland co-leader. Overall, they're surrendering 16.1 points and 308.6 yards per game, their second-best averages in the decade to the 2011 national runner-up squad.

With quarterback Eric Schmid sidelined by injury, Ty Brock and Ryan Humphries delivered touchdown passes in the win. It marked the Bearkats' seventh straight victory over a top-10 ranked team at Bowers Stadium since 2004.

"Great teams find a way to win these games," Keeler said. "We found a way to win this game."

HONORABLE MENTION: Florida A&M (34-31 OT win over No. 10 North Carolina A&T); Merrimack (30-21 win over Delaware State); No. 15 Sacramento State (49-22 win over No. 5 Montana); Southeast Missouri (24-21 win over No. 16 Jacksonville State); Tennessee State (26-24 win over No. 20 Austin Peay); The Citadel (27-10 win over No. 8 Furman)