Monthly archive

April 2021

GRIDIRON GURUS: Week 24

in Predictions

PUTTING IT ON THE LINE: In a classic clash of FCS titans, second-seed Sam Houston State hosts perennial national champion North Dakota State in Huntsville

While some things remain the same, other circumstances will dramatically change when the second-seed Sam Houston State Bearkats host the perennial NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national champion North Dakota State Bison at 2 p.m. Sunday in Huntsville’s Bowers Stadium.

Although these two teams are no strangers in the postseason, something will have to give in the national quarterfinal matchup. North Dakota State (7-2), winners of eight of the last nine FCS national titles, hits the road for a playoff game for the first time since 2010, while the Bearkats (7-0) enter the contest 14-0 in FCS postseason games played at Bowers Stadium.

With that said, these two teams have met four times in the FCS playoffs with the Bison winning all four — the first two to win the 2011 and 2012 national titles, the third in the 2015 semifinals, and the fourth in the 2017 semifinals. But the last time North Dakota State played in Huntsville, the Bison lost in 2009.

Despite the Bison domination in the past, the Bearkat defense enters the game looking much-improved on what run-oriented North Dakota State has seen in the past. While Sam Houston State allowed more than 200 rushing yards a game in 2017 and 2018, the Bearkats has allowed only 58.9 yards per game and 1.8 yards per carry this spring.

Ranked in the FCS top-three defensively, Sam Houston State will find out if it belongs there by taking on the Bison, who rushed for 422 yards last week against Eastern Washington. In a strength-on-strength matchup, North Dakota State averaged 227.1 rushing yards a game this spring, led by running trio of bruising Hunter Luepke, speedster Jalen Bussey, and true freshman Dominic Gonnella.

Producing a more balanced attack, the Bearkats will be led by quarterback Eric Schmid, who has thrown for 2,154 yards and 15 touchdowns in seven games this spring, while running for another 291 yards and five scores.

Other FCS quarterfinal playoff matchups, top-seed South Dakota State (6-1) hosts surprising Southern Illinois (6-3), third-seed James Madison (6-0) takes on North Dakota (5-1), and Delaware (6-0) hits the road to face fourth-seed Jacksonville State (10-2).

Throughout the unprecedented spring football season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus prognosticators will select NCAA FCS and Division III college football games featuring Texas teams.

This season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel consists of newcomer Don Nicholas, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25), while Meridian Yellowjacket football head coach Wade Morton, The Sports Buzz photographer David Harding and The Sports Buzz’ Brett Voss return from last year.

For the record, Gridiron Gurus’ friendly battle for bragging right during the “real” fall football season came down to the final game of the season, the Super Bowl. With both Wade and Brett amazingly tied after picking 245 games going into Super Bowl LV, Wade correctly picked Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to upset Brett’s choice and favorites, the Kansas City Chiefs. Congrats, Wade.

Join us every Thursday throughout the 2021 spring football season as THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick their winners for the unprecedented spring football games. Be sure to make your picks as well!

©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

GETTING THE JOB DONE

in College Football

FCS PLAYOFF ROUNDUP: Second-seeded Sam Houston State holds off 10th-ranked Monmouth, 21-15, advancing to the NCAA FCS quarterfinals to host perennial national powerhouse North Dakota State

HUNTSVILLE — Despite jumping out to a 21-0 lead, second-seed Sam Houston State needed a last-minute interception to hold off 10th-ranked Monmouth and advance in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs.

On fourth-and-goal with 48 seconds remaining, Bearkat junior Isaiah Downes came up with an interception to preserve a 21-15 victory over Monmouth in the opening round Saturday at Bowers Stadium.

With the win, Sam Houston State (7-0) advances to host the perennial FCS national champion North Dakota State Bison (7-2) at 2 p.m. Sunday in Huntsville’s Bowers Stadium.

Although these two teams are no strangers in the postseason, something will have to give in the national quarterfinals. North Dakota State (7-2), winners of eight of the last nine FCS national titles, goes on the road for playoff game for the first time since 2010, while the Bearkats (7-0) enter the contest 14-0 in FCS postseason games played at Bowers Stadium.

With that said, these two teams have met four times in the FCS playoffs with the Bison winning all four — the first two to win the 2011 and 2012 national titles, the third in the 2015 semifinals, and the fourth in the 2017 semifinals. But the last time North Dakota State played in Huntsville, the Bison lost in 2009.

Against Monmouth, the Bearkats build a 21-0 advantage through three quarters as running back Ramon Jefferson scored two touchdowns, while quarterback Eric Schmid connected with wide receiver Cody Crest for another score.

Monmouth (3-1) finally got something going offensively in late in the third quarter, mounting a 17-play, 90-yard drive resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run by Juwan Farri and a two-point conversion reception by Gene Scott with 13:09 left in the game.

And the Hawks weren’t done yet. Monmouth got a defensive stop and marched right back down the field for an 86-yard scoring drive when quarterback Tony Muskett hit Terrance Greene for a 30-yard score. Another Monmouth defensive stand gave them a chance to win it in the final minutes as the Hawks drove down to the SHSU nine-yard line and faced a fourth down with 56 seconds left in the game. But Muskett threw it right into the arms of Downes to seal the win.

The Sam Houston State defense proved to be the key even though the Hawks outgained the Bearkats, 398-257, in total offense. But the Bearkats came up with two turnovers, 16 tackles for a loss and six sacks.

Sam Houston struggled offensively for most of the first half despite having the lead. That finally changed in the final three minutes. Jefferson led the Sam Houston offense with 98 yards on nine carries, while Schmid completed just 12 of 24 passes for 133 yards.

Sam Houston continues its quest to win their first national championship since earning one as a NIAA program in 1964. Sam Houston State has advanced to the FCS national championship game twice, losing to North Dakota State in both 2011 and 2012.

In other FCS first round playoff action, No. 1 seed South Dakota State (6-1) crushed Holy Cross (3-1), 31-3; third seed James Madison (6-0) slipped by VMI (6-2), 31-24; fourth seed Jacksonville State (10-2) rolled over Davidson (4-3), 49-14; Southern Illinois (6-3) edged Weber State (5-1), 34-31; North Dakota (5-1) dominated Missouri State (5-5), 44-10; Delaware (6-0) survived against Sacred Heart (3-2); 19-10; and North Dakota State (7-2) eased past Eastern Washington (5-2), 42-20.

The 2021 FCS Championship Game will take place on May 16 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco.

Photos courtesy of SAM HOUSTON STATE ATHLETICS

©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

GRIDIRON GURUS: Week 23

in Predictions

PUTTING IT ON THE LINE: Seeking first-ever NCAA national title, Sam Houston State enters the FCS 16-team playoffs as the No. 2 seed to host undefeated Monmouth in Huntsville

Hoping to make history in the unprecedented NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) spring playoffs, the second-seeded Sam Houston State Bearkats returns to the postseason for the first time since 2017.

Leaving no doubt they earned their lofty seeding and playoff berth, the Bearkats (6-0) completed a perfect regular season with an impressive 42-14 victory over 22nd-ranked Incarnate Word Saturday at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium to wrap up the outright Southland Conference title. With the win, Sam Houston State advances to host Monmouth (3-0) at noon Saturday in Huntsville’s Bowers Stadium.

Interestingly, Bowers Stadium — one of the NCAA’s pre-determined sites for the postseason due to the health and safety protocols surrounding the pandemic — will be one of 12 sites in contention to host the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the playoffs. The NCAA has determined the maximum capacity for all stadiums during the postseason will be capped at 25 percent.

“We are excited for the upcoming championship and thankful to the hosts of this year’s sites,” said Kyle Moats, chair of the committee and Director of Athletics at Missouri State University. “Given the unique circumstances of this football season, the committee believes the predetermined sites and hosts chosen will provide both a safe and enjoyable environment for all our participants.

“An exceptional student-athlete experience is one of our top priorities and we are confident that our hosts will make this year’s championship memorable for all involved.”

Meeting Sam Houston State for the first time, Monmouth earned a trip to the FCS playoffs after an abbreviated spring 2021 season. The Hawks handed nationally-ranked Kennesaw State a 42-17 loss to finish a perfect spring slate, winning by 24 points per game. The winner of the Sam Houston State-Monmouth matchup will face the winner of North Dakota State vs. Eastern Washington for a spot in the national semifinals.

Hoping to win a national title for the first time in the NCAA, the Bearkats bring the postseason back to Huntsville for the first time since 2017. With wins over nationally-ranked Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State and Incarnate Word, Sam Houston State enter the 16-team playoffs as one of the favorites to win the national championship after a dominant spring slate, winning games by a combined 27.3 points per game to capture the Southland Conference and earn an auto-bid.

Now, the Bearkats will try and win their first national championship since earning one as a NIAA program in 1964. Sam Houston State has advanced to the FCS national championship game twice, losing to North Dakota State in both 2011 and 2012. The Bearkats stand undefeated in the postseason at Bowers Stadium, posting an all-time record of 13-0 in the playoffs, winning a 34-27 thriller against Kennesaw State in 2017.

The 2021 FCS Championship Game will take place at 1 p.m. on May 16 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco and broadcasted on ABC. All rounds of the FCS playoffs will be aired on ESPN’s family of networks beginning with first-round games taking place Saturday.

Elsewhere in the Southland Conference, Southern Illinois (5-3) knocked off 23rd-ranked Southeastern Louisiana Lions (4-3) to earn one of the six at-large bids, hitting the road to take on Weber St. (5-0) at Ogden, Utah Saturday at 4 p.m. in a first round playoff game. For the unprecedented spring season, the FCS playoff committee reduced the postseason field from 24 to 16 teams, leaving only six at-large bids up for grabs.

Other FCS playoff matchups, Davidson (4-2) visits No. 4 Jacksonville St. (9-2) at Jacksonville, Alabama Saturday at 2 p.m.; VMI (6-1) takes on No. 3 James Madison (5-0) at Harrisonburg, Virginia at 2 p.m.; Holy Cross (3-0) faces No. 1 South Dakota St. (5-1) at Brookings, South Dakota at 3 p.m.; Eastern Wash. (5-1) travels to North Dakota St. (6-2) at Fargo, North Dakota, at 3:30 p.m.; Missouri St. (5-4) visits North Dakota (4-1) at Grand Fork, North Dakota at 5 p.m.; and Sacred Heart (3-1) takes on Delaware (5-0) at Newark, Delaware at 8 p.m.

Throughout the unprecedented spring football season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus prognosticators will select NCAA FCS and Division III college football games featuring Texas teams.

This season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel consists of newcomer Don Nicholas, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25), while Meridian Yellowjacket football head coach Wade Morton, The Sports Buzz photographer David Harding and The Sports Buzz’ Brett Voss return from last year.

For the record, Gridiron Gurus’ friendly battle for bragging right during the “real” fall football season came down to the final game of the season, the Super Bowl. With both Wade and Brett amazingly tied after picking 245 games going into Super Bowl LV, Wade correctly picked Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to upset Brett’s choice and favorites, the Kansas City Chiefs. Congrats, Wade.

Join us every Thursday throughout the 2021 spring football season as THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick their winners for the unprecedented spring football games. Be sure to make your picks as well!

©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

LEAVING NO DOUBT ABOUT IT

in College Football

Second-ranked Sam Houston State wraps up perfect regular season with dominating Southland Conference win over Incarnate Word, advances to FCS playoffs

SAN ANTONIO – Earning a trip to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs for the first time since 2017, the second-ranked Sam Houston State Bearkats completed a perfect regular season with an impressive 42-14 victory over 22nd-ranked Incarnate Word Saturday at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium to wrap up the outright Southland Conference title.

With the win, the undefeated Bearkats (6-0) were named as the No. 2 overall seed in the FCS playoffs on Sunday and will open up on the Road To Frisco at 11 a.m. Saturday at Huntsville’s Bowers Stadium against Monmouth (3-0), and  the game will be aired on ESPN3.

Throwing for one touchdown and rushing for another, Bearkat quarterback Eric Schmid completed 25 of 34 passes for 370 yards while rushing for 67. Despite only holding a 14-7 lead at halftime, the Bearkats (6-0) closed out the game by scoring 21 unanswered points to secure the win.

Scoring on a touchdown pass and running for another, wide receiver Jequez Ezzard finished the game with 155 yards receiving while Cody Chrest had a 106 yards on seven catches to give the Kats two receivers over the century mark for the game. Ramon Jefferson led the Bearkats in rushing with 92 yards and a score, while Donovan Williams and Ife Adeyi both ran for a touchdown.

Allowing only 17.5 points per game this season, the Sam Houston State defense delivered one of its strongest efforts of the season. Led by Trevor Williams with six tackles, the Bearkats defense held the Incarnate — ranked first in the FCS in total offense and 3rd-down efficiency along with being third in scoring — to just 14 points and 318 total yards after the Cardinals entered averaging 599 yards and 47.6 points per game.

Hoping to win a national title for the first time in the NCAA, the Bearkats bring the postseason back to Huntsville for the first time since 2017. With wins over nationally-ranked Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State and Incarnate Word, Sam Houston State enters the 16-team playoff bracket as one of the favorites to win the national championship after a dominant spring slate, winning by a combined 27.3 points per game to capture the Southland Conference and earn an auto-bid.

Now, the Bearkats will try and win their first national championship since earning one as a NIAA program in 1964. Sam Houston State has advanced to the FCS national championship game twice, losing to North Dakota State in both 2011 and 2012. The 2021 FCS Championship Game will take place on May 16 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco.

Photos courtesy of SAM HOUSTON STATE ATHLETICS & INCARNATE WORD ATHLETICS

©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

GRIDIRON GURUS: Week 22

in Predictions

PUTTING IT ON THE LINE: With NCAA DI (FCS) postseason berths on the line, fourth-ranked Sam Houston State travels to San Antonio to face Incarnate Word in regular season finale

In what looked like would be a classic showdown for the Southland Conference title, the regular season finale has become more of a clash between a national championship contender and a postseason pretender.

Hoping to earn the coveted automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs as Southland Conference champions, fifth-ranked and undefeated Sam Houston State (5-0) hits the road to take on 22nd-ranked Incarnate Word (3-2) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium in San Antonio. 

Incarnate Word stumbles into the season finale riding a two-game losing streak, getting crushed by 14th-ranked Nicholls State, 75-45, on the road three weeks ago before falling in a shocker to previously winless Northwestern State, 49-47, last Saturday.

But behind freshman quarterback Cameron Ward, the Cardinal offense ranks first in the nation with 599.2 total offensive yards per game while collecting 391.6 passing yards per game.

Despite the shortened spring season, Ward stands one touchdown pass away from breaking the school record for most TD passes in a single season by leading the nation with 22 scoring strikes.

On the other hand, the Bearkats clinched at least a share of the Southland Conference championship for the first time since 2017 as quarterback Eric Schmid led a 27-13 victory McNeese State at Bower’s Stadium last Saturday.

Coming into the game, the Bearkats average 511 offensive yards per game while led by Schmid  has passed for 330.2 yards per game. Defensively, SHSU boasts the best defense in the league by limiting opponents to 91 points, allowing just 11 touchdowns and five field goals. 

Elsewhere in the Southland Conference, 23rd-ranked Southeastern Louisiana Lions (4-2) hopes to earn more points with the selection committee for one of the six at-large bids when they visit Southern Illinois (4-3) in a non-conference game. For the unprecedented spring season, the FCS playoff committee reduced the postseason field from 24 to 16 teams, leaving only six at-large bids up for grabs.

Other FCS games in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) feature Mississippi Valley State (1-3) at Texas Southern (1-2); Prairie View A&M (2-0) traveling Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-0); Jackson State (3-3) visting Alcorn State; Grambling State (0-3) hosting Southern (3-1); and Alabama State (3-1) at Alabama A&M (2-0).

Throughout the unprecedented spring football season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus prognosticators will select NCAA FCS and Division III college football games featuring Texas teams.

This season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel consists of newcomer Don Nicholas, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25), while Meridian Yellowjacket football head coach Wade Morton, The Sports Buzz photographer David Harding and The Sports Buzz’ Brett Voss return from last year.

For the record, Gridiron Gurus’ friendly battle for bragging right during the “real” fall football season came down to the final game of the season, the Super Bowl. With both Wade and Brett amazingly tied after picking 245 games going into Super Bowl LV, Wade correctly picked Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to upset Brett’s choice and favorites, the Kansas City Chiefs. Congrats, Wade.

Join us every Thursday throughout the 2021 spring football season as THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick their winners for the unprecedented spring football games. Be sure to make your picks as well!

©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

RIDING THE WAVE OF MOMENTUM

in Softball/Spring Sports

Clifton Lady Cub softball clinches another trip to the Class 3A postseason with a three-game winning streak

Momentum can be a powerful force on the softball diamond. And even after sitting out most of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown last spring, the Clifton Lady Cub softball team picked up right where they left off.

Heading into the final week of the Texas high school softball regular season riding a three-game win streak, the Clifton Lady Cubs have already punched their ticket to the Class 3A playoffs. And despite the road block and kick in the teeth delivered by the shutdown last spring, the Lady Cubs continue to build on the District 17-3A success they began in 2019.

By run-ruling Riesel, 11-1, last Friday, the Lady Cubs (6-4 in district, 16-7 overall) secured a postseason berth to match their 2019 accomplishment. And if not for last season’s shutdown, Clifton would likely be capturing their third straight trip to the playoffs. With two district games remaining, the Lady Cubs will be battling Troy (5-5, 16-7) for third place when Clifton hosts the Lady Trojans at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“Now that we’ve clinched a playoff spot, tonight and next Tuesday will determine our seeding,” Clifton softball head coach Sam Ledlow said. “I was pleased with the Riesel win Friday. I thought we came out ready to play even though it took a few innings to adjust at the plate. After a long track day and delay Thursday which pushed the meet to Friday, I thought our girls competed well in our game, and I was proud of their efforts.”

Behind a shutdown pitching performance from Kasandra Gaona, the Lady Cubs used a seven-run third inning to take control against Riesel (0-10, 2-10). Kelsey Wetegrove and Kary Fuentes slammed home runs while Kambrie Kettler went three-for-three at the plate with a double and three runs batted in. From the circle, Gaona tossed the complete game allowing only one unearned run while striking out six.

Clifton began the current win streak with a hard-fought 7-1 victory over arch-rival Whitney (2-7, 11-13) April 1. After the Lady Wildcats jumped out to a 1-0 first inning lead, the Lady Cubs rallied for three runs in the third before putting Whitney away with four more in the sixth.

Wetegrove delivered a three-run home run, Bailey Ledbetter went three-for-four at the plate with a triple, two runs scored and two RBIs, while Kynli Bearden, Sydney Fullerton and Fuentes contributed two hits apiece. From the circle, Gaona entered the game in relief to pitch 4 2/3 no-hit innings, walking only one while striking out 10.

Making it two in a row, the Lady Cubs crushed McGregor (2-7, 5-14), 15-1, last Tuesday as Gaona did not allow an earned run while scattered five hits, two walks and striking out 10 in a complete game performance.

Jumping out to a commanding 5-0 lead in the first inning, Clifton pounded out 18 hits — including seven for extra bases. Fuentes led the Lady Cubs at the plate by going three-for-four with a double, three runs scored and three RBIs. But she had plenty of help as Bearden went three-for five with two RBIs, Fullerton went three-for-five with a run scored and an RBI, while Layla Gaona, Kasandra Gaona and Wetegrove contributed two hits each.

“I was proud of how we came ready to play, even though a few girls played a position they wouldn’t normally play,” Ledlow said. “I love how this team steps up to fill positions when needed. As long as we keep playing like we have been, we’ll be in a good spot heading into the playoffs.”

After opening District 17-3A competition with a 7-3 loss to 12th-ranked and league-leading Lorena March 2, the Lady Cubs embarked on an eight-game winning streak. Building momentum by marching through the Clifton Tournament March 5-6, the Lady Cubs resumed district play with dominating victories over Whitney, 11-0, McGregor, 10-0, and Riesel, 16-7.

But Clifton closed out the first round of district with back-to-back losses to Troy, 11-0, and at West (9-1, 15-5), 7-2, before opening the second round with another loss to undefeated Lorena (10-0, 16-5-1), 14-7, on the road. Snapping that three-game skid just in time, the Lady Cubs mounted a three-game win streak to secure their spot in the playoffs.

“We played better each game and will continue to improve on the little things,” Ledlow said. “I’m excited about this group of girls and glad we get a season this year.”

With the Lady Cubs in the midst of the season of their dreams in 2020 after advancing to the Class 3A playoffs as the district’s fourth place team in 2019, their high school sports world came to an abrupt end when Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that all Texas schools would remain closed to in-person learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. As a result, the UIL followed suit by cancelling all remaining spring activities, eliminating Clifton’s opportunity for an extended playoff run before it even had a chance to begin.

In the midst of winning eight of their last nine games, the Lady Cubs opened District 17-3A competition last season with three straight victories before their momentum came to a screeching halt when the UIL shutdown the season due to the pandemic last spring. Clifton (3-0 in district, 9-7 overall in 2020) had just completed a back-to-back, home-and-away sweep against defending co-district champion Whitney to take the early driver’s seat in the pennant chase.

 “I had five seniors on my team last year, and that group was very talented together because of their cohesiveness,” Ledlow said. “We started off district beating Maypearl at home, and then taking on Whitney beating them twice. I know we were all ready for a great season and couldn’t wait to see how we would end up.

“While I couldn’t stand the thought of not getting to finish the season out with them, I know the rest of us have remembered the legacy they left on the softball diamond.”

While many Clifton softball fans still ponder the season that might have been in 2020, this season’s Lady Cubs are well on their way to making a legacy all their own.

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

in College Football

SPRING FOOTBALL ROUNDUP: Sam Houston State claims at least a share of the Southland Conference title as the Bearkats bid adieu; Northwestern State stuns Incarnate Word

In a bid to make a run at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national title in the unprecedented spring college football season, fourth-ranked Sam Houston State remained undefeated with a hard-fought 27-13 victory over upset-minded McNeese State at Huntsville’s Bowers Stadium last Saturday.

In the process, the Bearkats (5-0) clinched at least a share of the Southland Conference title and moved a step closer to earning the conference champion’s coveted automatic bid to the FCS national playoffs.

While 19th-ranked Incarnate Word hoped to stay in contention going into its regular season finale showdown against Sam Houston State, winless Northwestern State shocked the Cardinals with a thrilling 49-47 upset victory.

Elsewhere in the Southland Conference, the 23rd-ranked Southeastern Louisiana Lions (3-2) kept their hopes of earning one of the six at-large bids to the FCS postseason with a 52-45 home win over Nicholls State in the River Bell Classic.

SAM HOUSTON STATE 27, MCNEESE STATE 13

HUNTSVILLE – Seeking the school’s first national football title, the fourth-ranked Sam Houston State Bearkats clinched at least a share of the Southland Conference championship for the first time since 2017 as quarterback Eric Schmid led a 27-13 victory McNeese State at Bower’s Stadium last Saturday.

Despite falling behind 3-0 early, the Bearkats (5-0) scored 27 unanswered points to take control of the game midway through the third quarter. Sam Houston State overcame three turnovers with stout defensive stands to setup a showdown with Incarnate Word for the outright conference crown on April 17 in San Antonio.

Breaking off the longest run of his career, Schmid broke loose for a 64-yard run to set up running back Donovan Williams’ two-yard touchdown plunge as the Bearkats built a comfortable 27-3 lead over the Cowboys (3-4) midway through the third quarter.

Schmid threw for 202 yards and a touchdown while rushed for another 92 yards. Jequez Ezzard led Sam Houston with 87 yards receiving and 135 all-purpose yards, while wide receiver Noah Smith hauled in four passes for 48 yards and a score.

With Sam Houston State departing the Southland Conference for the Western Athletic Conference this summer, the Bearkats stand on the verge of reclaiming the mantle of supremacy. From 2011-17, Sam Houston State qualified to the FCS playoffs seven straight seasons, advancing to the semifinals or finals five times.

The Bearkats need to finish the regular season portion of their spring schedule undefeated to ensure a top seed, and a home game, for the playoffs as Sam Houston State seeks to win the school’s first FCS national title at Toyota Stadium in Frisco on May 16.

NORTHWESTERN STATE 49, INCARNATE WORD 47

SAN ANTONIO – Standing on the brink of setting up a classic showdown for the Southland Conference title, 14th-ranked Incarnate Word saw it all slip away in the final seconds last Saturday at Gayle & Tom Benson Stadium.

Needing to win their final two games to ensure a share of the Southland Conference title and an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs and hosting both of them at home, the Cardinals appeared to secure the showdown when Cameron Ward found Darion Chafin wide open for a 34-yard touchdown with 55 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

But the previously winless Northwestern State Demons immediately drove down the field in four plays covering 58 yards to set up a last-second field 32-yard field goal from Eddie Godina, setting off a wild Demon celebration and handing Incarnate Word a heartbreaking 49-47 loss.

Incarnate Word running back Kevin Brown scored a career-high three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the loss that could cost the Cardinals a chance at earning an at-large berth in the FCS playoffs.

Brown’s three-touchdown effort marked the first time a Cardinal has scored three rushing touchdowns in a single game since Keyondrick Philio’s three against Abilene Christian in 2019, and it tied for second-best in UIW history. Brown rushed for 160 yards, marking the fourth game he has rushed for over 100 yards.

Cardinal quarterback Cameron Ward threw for over 400 yards for the third consecutive game by completing 33 of 59 passes for 431 yards. With the two touchdown passes, Ward tied the single-season record for touchdown passes.

Defensively, Gerald Bowie III led the Cardinals with eight tackles, a blocked PAT, one fumble recovery and recorded one solo sack for a loss of seven yards.

Photos courtesy of SAM HOUSTON STATE ATHLETICS & INCARNATE WORD ATHLETICS

©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

GRIDIRON GURUS: Week 21

in Predictions

PUTTING IT ON THE LINE: Setting up Southland Conference season finale showdown, Sam Houston State, Incarnate Word looking for statement wins Saturday in FCS action

With just two weeks remaining in the unprecedented NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) spring season, teams will be playing for conference championships and style points in hopes of getting a bid to the 16-team postseason tournament field.

Playing to earn the coveted automatic bid to the FCS playoffs as Southland Conference champions, fourth-ranked Sam Houston State (4-0) hopes to take another step toward an outright title when the Bearkats hope the upset-minded McNeese State Cowboys (2-3) at 4 p.m. Saturday in Huntsville’s Bowers Stadium.

Sam Houston State maintained control of its own destiny with a hard-fought 24-16 road win in Louisiana over winless Northwestern State (0-5) last Saturday. By climbing to No. 4 on the NCAA FCS committee’s midseason rankings, the Bearkats have moved into a favorable path in the FCS Playoffs while putting together a dominant season — winning by an average of 28 points per game.

McNeese State shocked 18th-ranked Nicholls State, 43-31, for the sixth consecutive time at home to effectively knock the Colonels (3-2) out of the SLC title race.

But 19th-ranked Incarnate Word (3-1) remains in contention coming off a bye week. The Cardinals have the advantage of hosting their final two regular season games, taking on  Northwestern State (0-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday. With a win over the Demons, Incarnate Word would set up a winner-take-automatic bid showdown against Sam Houston State in the regular season finale.

Elsewhere in the Southland Conference, Nicholls State will travel to Thibodaux to take on the 23rd-ranked Southeastern Louisiana Lions (3-2) in the River Bell Classic in a battle for survival with a shot at one of the six at-large bids on the line.

Other FCS games in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) feature Mississippi Valley State (1-2) visiting Alabama State (2-1), while Alabama A&M (1-0) travels to Jackson State (2-1)

Throughout the unprecedented spring football season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus prognosticators will select NCAA FCS and Division III college football games featuring Texas teams.

This season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel consists of newcomer Don Nicholas, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25), while Meridian Yellowjacket football head coach Wade Morton, The Sports Buzz photographer David Harding and The Sports Buzz’ Brett Voss return from last year.

For the record, Gridiron Gurus’ friendly battle for bragging right during the “real” fall football season came down to the final game of the season, the Super Bowl. With both Wade and Brett amazingly tied after picking 245 games going into Super Bowl LV, Wade correctly picked Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to upset Brett’s choice and favorites, the Kansas City Chiefs. Congrats, Wade.

Join us every Thursday throughout the 2021 spring football season as THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick their winners for the unprecedented spring football games. Be sure to make your picks as well!

©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

PLAYING FOR THE BIG SHOW

in College Football

Nationally-ranked Sam Houston State, Incarnate Word playing for the Southland Conference title & coveted automatic bid into the NCAA DI FCS postseason tournament

With two games remaining in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) spring season, the Southland Conference appears to be on the verge of producing a winner-take-all showdown in the regular season finale.

Playing for the coveted automatic bid to the FCS playoffs, 10 spots in the postseason tournament will be awarded to conference champions. But with the playoff field reduced to 16 from 24 teams, only six at-large bids will be up for grabs.

Fourth-ranked Sam Houston State (4-0) maintained control of its own destiny with a hard-fought 24-16 road win in Louisiana over winless Northwestern State (0-5) last Saturday. By climbing to No. 4 on the NCAA FCS committee’s midseason rankings, the Bearkats have moved into a favorable path in the FCS Playoffs.

The Bearkats have put together a tremendously dominant season so far in SHSU head coach K.C. Keeler’s seventh season in Huntsville. Winning by an average of 28 points per game, Sam Houston State made a statement with an overwhelming 71-17 win over seventh-ranked Nicholls State.

In the meantime, what appeared to be a three-team race dissolved when McNeese State (2-3) shocked 18th-ranked Nicholls State, 43-31. For the sixth consecutive time, the Cowboys knocked off the Colonels at home to effectively knock Nicholls State (3-2) out of the SLC title race.

And then there were two as 19th-ranked Incarnate Word (3-1) remains the only team that could knock the Bearkats out of the conference’s automatic bid. Coming off a bye week, the Cardinals have the advantage of hosting their final two regular season games of the spring. Incarnate Word hosts Northwestern State at 7 p.m. Saturday, and a win over the Demons would set up a winner-take-automatic bid showdown against Sam Houston State.

On the other hand, the Bearkats meet upset-minded McNeese State at 4 p.m. Saturday in Huntsville hoping to claim the SLC title outright with a win in its final two games, while Incarnate Word could secure at least a share of its second conference title in the last three years by winning its final two games.

Of course, it remains entirely possible that the Southland Conference could receive at least on of the at-large bids to the FCS playoffs.

Although both teams appear on the outside looking in, Nicholls State will travel to Thibodaux to take on the 23rd-ranked Southeastern Louisiana Lions (3-2) in the River Bell Classic with a shot at one of the six at-large bids on the line.

Last season’s game turned out to be an all-time classic as Nicholls State fell behind 14-0 in the first half before scoring the next three touchdowns for a 21-14 lead heading into the fourth. SLU rallied for two fourth-quarter touchdowns, with the last coming with just over two minutes remaining.

But the Lions missed the extra point and it allowed Nicholls to go back up front, 28-27, after Dai’Jean Dixon caught a 57-yard touchdown pass with 90 seconds to go. SLU rallied and moved all the way to the two-yard line before fumbling at the goal line in the final seconds.

The final FCS Playoff bracket will be revealed at 10:30 a.m. April 18 on ESPNU. The national championship game will take place on May 16 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco.

Photos courtesy of SAM HOUSTON STATE ATHLETICS, NICHOLLS STATE ATHLETICS & INCARNATE WORD ATHLETICS

©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

GRIDIRON GURUS: Week 20

in Predictions

PUTTING IT ON THE LINE: Atop the AFCA Top 25 National Poll, fifth-ranked Sam Houston State, 21st-ranked Tarleton State headline action among NCAA Division I FCS teams

With NCAA Division III teams from Texas wrapping up the unprecedented spring college football season last week, the spotlight shines solely on the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) this week.

Wrapping up their inaugural season as an NCAA Division I football program, the 21st-ranked Tarleton State Texans (5-2) will host East Central (Okla) of the NCAA Division II’s Great American Conference at 6 p.m. Thursday at Stephenville’s Memorial Stadium.

On Military Appreciation Night, the first-ever B-52 Military Flyover at Tarleton State University will follow the National Anthem. All active-duty service members and retired members of the armed forces will receive free general admission tickets for themselves and their immediate families

After the Texans cracked the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) National Top 25 poll for the first time two weeks ago, Tarleton State climbed three more spots on the strength of an overwhelming 38-0 victory over Northeastern State last Saturday in Stephenville – notching the 500th victory in program history.

Thursday’s tilt represents the second time that Tarleton and East Central have competed on the gridiron during a milestone, transitional season in Stephenville. The Texans and Tigers began their all-time series in 1961 during Tarleton’s first season as a senior college.

East Central leads the all-time series 12-10 since the first meeting in 1961, but the series has been dominated by the Texans since 1990. Notching their first win in the series, the 1990 Texans became the first in Tarleton history to complete an undefeated regular.

Also headlining the FSC schedule, the fifth-ranked Sam Houston State Bearkats (3-0) host the winless Northwestern State (0-4) at 6 p.m. Thursday in Huntsville’s Bowers Stadium looking to stay undefeated and atop the Southland Conference.

Following Thursday’s game, Sam Houston State will close out the spring season by hosting McNeese State (2-3) April 10 before facing 20th-ranked Incarnate Word (3-1) in the season finale April 17.

Other FCS games Saturday feature 11th-ranked Nicholls State (4-1) hitting the road to take on McNeese State (2-3); Lamar (2-3) visiting 22nd-ranked Southeastern La (2-2), and Texas Southern (0-2) hosting Grambling State (0-3).

Throughout the unprecedented spring football season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus prognosticators will select NCAA FCS and Division III college football games featuring Texas teams.

This season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel consists of newcomer Don Nicholas, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25), while Meridian Yellowjacket football head coach Wade Morton, The Sports Buzz photographer David Harding and The Sports Buzz’ Brett Voss return from last year.

For the record, Gridiron Gurus’ friendly battle for bragging right during the “real” fall football season came down to the final game of the season, the Super Bowl. With both Wade and Brett amazingly tied after picking 245 games going into Super Bowl LV, Wade correctly picked Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to upset Brett’s choice and favorites, the Kansas City Chiefs. Congrats, Wade.

Join us every Thursday throughout the 2021 spring football season as THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick their winners for the unprecedented spring football games. Be sure to make your picks as well!

©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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