HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- The #1 Sam Houston Bearkats (8-0, 5-0 AQ7, 4-0 WAC) took care of business in quick fashion over FCS transitional member and fellow WAC school Dixie State (0-9, 0-3 WAC) 59-10 at Bowers Stadium on Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Kats will be assured at least a share of the WAC championship in their only year to participate in the league and sets up a potential showdown for the WAC-ASUN auto-bid next week against Eastern Kentucky.
A week of conference realignment turmoil overshadowed Saturday’s first-ever meeting with the visiting Trailblazers and called into question whether or not Sam Houston would remain focused on the task at hand. The university announced less than 24 hours prior to kickoff that the Bearkats would join Conference USA for the 2023 football season. With the announcement, this will be Sam Houston’s final season in the FCS, and the transition to the FBS will begin immediately following the FCS playoffs.
All of those questions of whether or not Sam Houston would be focused on 0-8 Dixie State almost immediately put to rest. The Kats scored on the opening drive of the game to take a 7-0 lead and from there, the Sam Houston scored a defensive touchdown on a 3-yard Jahari Kay scoop-and-score, a 64-yard field goal block by Zion McCollum that was returned for a touchdown by Jaylen Thomas, and a 23-yard rushing touchdown by Ramon Jefferson to take a 28-0 lead after one quarter of play.
The Kats would pour on 17 more first-half points on touchdown runs of 2 yards by Kyran Jackson and 25 yards by Noah Smith with Seth Morgan tacking on a 21-yard field goal to take a 45-0 lead into half time.
While the result was fairly clearly in hand, a cloud hung over Bearkat signal-caller Eric Schmid who took a big hit on the final drive of the 2nd quarter and was led to the locker room by the Sam Houston training staff. Schmid returned to the sidelines without a helmet and was active during the remainder of the game.
The second half was more of a technicality, but freshman Zach Hrbacek ran for his longest gain of the season and a 63-yard touchdown to stretch the Sam Houston lead to 52-0 with 9:36 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
Dixie tacked on a field goal towards the end of the 3rd quarter and a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kobe Tracy to wideout Keith Davis with 11:33 remaining in the game to cut the Sam Houston lead down to 52-10 and punctuate 10 unanswered points for the visitors.
The Kats weren’t done though as another freshman, Weston Stephens, ran for a career-long touchdown of his own from 47 yards to tack on another 6 points--the first TD of his young career in a Bearkat uniform. Seth Morgan’s PAT stretched the Kats’ lead to 59-10 with 6:51 left. That drive was set up by a Tobias Weaver interception of Kobe Tracy.
The Kats would continue to move the ball and exchange possessions with the Blazers, but walked away with a 59-10 final result.
Sam Houston dominated the game with 592 total yards of offense to Dixie State’s 298. The Kats ate up 403 yards on the ground on 41 attempts--an average of 9.8 yards per carry. Overall, Sam Houston averaged 8.5 yards per play on 70 plays from scrimmage.
Weston Stephens had a career day in mop-up duty carrying 7 times for 90 yards (12.9 YPC) and a touchdown. Fellow freshman back Zach Hrbacek also had a career day in relief going for 76 yards on 7 carries (10.9 YPC) and a touchdown.
Starters Ramon Jefferson and Eric Schmid did all of their work in the first half with Jefferson carrying 8 times for 76 yards (9.5 YPC) and a touchdown while Schmid went 10-19-1 for 124 yards and one touchdown (53%, 6.5 YPA). Schmid played almost the entire first half before being knocked out on the final drive before halftime.
Dixie State remains winless on the season, but quarterback Kobe Tracy went 28-48-1 for 240 yards and a 4th quarter touchdown. Drew Kannely-Robles carried the ball 10 times for 42 yards (4.2 YPC) while the Bearkat defense allowed only 58 yards on the ground.
Sam Houston has won 19 consecutive games and 18 games in the 2021 calendar year.
Sam Houston will finish out the home portion of their season next Saturday at 12:00 against Eastern Kentucky. An EKU win over Stephen F. Austin later today could set up a de facto AQ7 auto-bid championship.