Kats hold off Coyotes 54-42, advance to quarterfinals

2 weeks ago 1

The No. 6 Sam Houston State Bearkats defeated the University of South Dakota Coyotes in the second round of the FCS playoffs 54-42 in a wild contest that had 65 combined first downs, 174 plays and 1,345 yards of total offense.

Junior wide receiver Davion Davis had a monster game. He finished the night with four touchdowns, three receiving and one on the ground. He accumulated 141 total yards on eight catches and a pair of carries. Following the hard-fought victory and his impressive performance, Davis took a lengthy, solitary knee near the 30-yard line for a few minutes and put his head down.

“My grandma passed away in 2011,” Davis said. “Today I’ve been thinking about her a lot, and to have a game like that took a toll on me. I was showing her that I’m playing for her.”

After the SHSU defense forced a punt on the opening drive of the game, senior quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe and the offense continued its high-octane attack from the regular season as it took just three plays and 27 seconds to find Davis for a 44-yard touchdown pass, and the Kats were off and running to a 7-0 lead with 11:44 in the opening quarter.

With 6:31 in the first quarter, a roughing the passer penalty on SHSU gave the Coyotes new life with a first and goal. They got on the board with a five yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Chris Streveler to senior tight end Josh Hale to tie the game 7-7.

SHSU answered on its ensuing possession marching downfield as they capped off an 87-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Briscoe to Davis. Davis’s second touchdown of the game would give the Bearkats a 14-7 lead with 2:45 remaining in the first.

The Kats got the ball back 35 seconds later with a clutch interception by freshman defensive back Zyon McCollum at the SHSU 25-yard line.

The offense took over and advanced to the USD 42-yard line before the first quarter came to an end.  The second quarter was more the same as SHSU found paydirt on a 3-yard run by Davis. His third touchdown of the first half extended the Kats lead to 21-7 with 13:24 on the game clock.

Streveler and the Coyotes offense struck back with a 34-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Kody Case as they pulled back within one possession 21-14 with 12:21 left in the second quarter.

The USD defense came up with a huge play on the first snap of SHSU’s ensuing possession when junior linebacker picked off Briscoe’s pass to set up the Coyotes’ offense at the Kats 30-yard line. They were unable to score points off the turnover, however, when junior defensive back JaColbie Butler broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth and 10 to force a turnover on downs.

SHSU’s offense went up-tempo as they stormed down the field with an eight play, 70-yard drive finished by senior running back Corey Avery punching the ball in from the one yard line. A missed extra point kept the score 27-14 with 8:16 to play in the first half.

Following the touchdown, SHSU’s defense forced a punt that gave the offense the ball at its own 19-yard line. Junior running back Remis Bulmer propelled the Kats to the 35-yard line with a 16-yard run up the middle. Briscoe would throw a deep ball downfield to sophomore receiver Nathan Stewart for a 44-yard touchdown pass to give SHSU a 34-14 lead with 3:39 on the game clock.

SHSU’s defense remained relentless as another forced punt gave the Kats the ball back at their own 13-yard line with 2:02 on the clock. A 27-yard completion to senior receiver Yedidiah Louis, a 24-yard run by Avery and a 25-yard catch-and-run by Stewart on three sequential plays set up Davis’s fourth touchdown of the half as he and Briscoe hooked up for a 12-yard score. That score with 1:08 left to play gave the Kats a 41-14 lead, and they took that lead into halftime.

“That’s a heck of a football team,” head coach K.C. Keeler said. “We came in at halftime and knew we were going to half to play a second half.”

SHSU received the second half kickoff, but USD forced a three-and-out to bring its offense onto the field. The Coyotes capped off a four play, 69-yard drive that lasted 53 seconds with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Streveler to senior receiver Brandt Van Roekel. That scoring drive closed the gap to 41-21 with 12:11 in the third quarter.

SHSU was forced to punt again on its next offensive possession, but the biggest loss of the drive was Louis, taking a huge hit that would keep him from returning to the game.

“I think it’s just a bruised hip,” Keeler said. “It was one of those things where it was just too stiff he couldn’t go in.”

The Coyotes kept the momentum on their side as they covered the spread again thanks in large part to a pass interference penalty and a personal foul against the Bearkats. Streveler finished the drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Shamar Jackson that brought USD within two possessions. SHSU still clung to a 41-28 lead with 7:24 in the third quarter.

SHSU’s next possession was a three-and-out that burned just 27 seconds off the clock. A shanked punt gave USD the ball at the Kats 47-yard line, but a sack by junior defensive end Derick Roberson led to a first down loss. USD converted on a fourth down and one at the SHSU 38-yard line to keep its drive alive. They faced another fourth and one at the nine-yard line, but the Kats defense made a stand and forced a turnover on downs.

SHSU’s offense could not capitalize after the stop, though, as it went three-and-out once again after a sack by sophomore defensive lineman Darin Greenfield. The punt gave USD the ball back in SHSU territory with 1:23 left in the third quarter.

“They got us in a three-and-out,” Keeler said. “All of a sudden they had a short field and they started getting some points on the board.”

The first play of the fourth quarter yielded a touchdown as Streveler used his legs on a quarterback keeper and scampered into the end zone from three yards out. USD scored 21 unanswered points to pull within six points as the Bearkats tried to hold onto their 41-35 lead with 14:54 remaining in the game.

Briscoe came out with a statement play as he connected with Stewart for 48 yards downfield on the first play of the drive. A holding penalty backed the Kats up to the 18-yard line as they faced a second down and goal. The drive ended with a 27-yard field goal by junior kicker Tre Hohnstein that pushed the Kats lead out to 44-35 with 11:33 left on the clock.

USD answered with another drive that took less than one minute off the clock as a 58-yard catch-and-run from Streveler to senior wide receiver Alonge Brooks made it 44-42 with 10:45 left in the game.

Briscoe and the Kats would pick up the pace with a 35-yard completion to sophomore receiver Coree Compton that got SHSU into the red zone. A conversion on fourth down eventually set up a two-yard touchdown run by Avery that made it 51-42 with 8:03.

“Coree gets so overshadowed,” Briscoe said. “I don’t think Coree gets nearly as much respect as he should. He’s a special player and one of the most unselfish people.”

Sophomore defensive lineman Khalil Welsh came up with a huge interception at the SHSU 20-yard line to half the Coyotes next drive. Briscoe and the offense set up shop with 8:03 and burned clock with the help of an 18-yard run by Bulmer. A 40-yard field goal by Hohnstein made it 54-42 with 2:53 left in the fourth.

Welsh stepped up once again and penetrated the Coyotes back field as he sacked Streveler to force a third down and 16. USD turned the ball over on downs when a fourth and one conversion failed at their own 48-yard line. The Kats offense picked up the one first down they needed and after that went into victory formation to seal the 12-point win.

“What a great game,” Keeler said. “It’s the playoffs. It’s what you expect.”

SHSU will host the Kennesaw State Owls who upset the No. 3 Jacksonville State Gamecocks 17-7. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 9 at Bowers Stadium. The game will also be broadcasted on ESPN3.