HUNTSVILLE, Texas—Sam Houston State took a 41-14 lead into halftime, survived a furious South Dakota rally, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs with an explosive 54-42 win Saturday at Bowers Stadium.
The two best quarterbacks in all of FCS put on a show for an ESPN3 audience and the nearly 5,000 fans in attendance. South Dakota’s Chris Streveler and Sam Houston State’s Jeremiah Briscoe combined for 1,025 yards passing and 10 touchdowns. Streveler passed for a USD and FCS playoff record 520 yards and accounted for six scores. Briscoe threw for 505 and four touchdowns. The two offenses, ranked one and two nationally, combined for 1,345 yards.
South Dakota senior Brandt Van Roekel had 11 receptions for a program-record 234 yards. He had five catches for 152 yards in the second half and capped the Coyotes’ opening drive of the third quarter with a 42-yard touchdown catch. South Dakota scored on four of its first five drives of the second half to climb within two, 44-42, with 10:45 left in the fourth quarter.
After compiling 468 yards in the first half, the Bearkats netted one first down and just 28 yards on four drives in the third quarter. Streveler, meanwhile, was 12 of 16 for 179 yards and two scores in the frame. He ran in from two yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter that made it 41-35, and hooked up with Alonge Brooks for a 58-yard strike that made it 44-42.
Briscoe got it going with three straight completions to Coree Compton that got SHSU inside the 20, and running back Corey Avery converted a 4th-and-1 on a drive he completed with a 1-yard plunge that made it 51-42 with 8:03 left. Avery ran for 100 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns. Compton had four catches for 74.
Van Roekel was credited for 58 yards on a slant pass he took inside the 5, but was called for a facemask penalty while stiff arming a defender that took the ball back to the 30. Three plays later, on 2-and-10 from the 17, Streveler tried to hit Kai Henry with a screen pass. The ball bounced off the back of an offensive lineman and bounced straight to SHSU lineman Kahlil Welsch for an interception. It was USD’s second turnover of the game and ended the Coyotes’ comeback bid.
Briscoe led the Bearkats on one last scoring drive that culminated with Tre Honshtein’s 40-yard field goal that made it 54-42 with 2:53 to go. Briscoe, last year’s Walter Payton Award Winner, completed 28-of-43 passes and finished four yards shy of his career high. All four of his touchdown passes came in the first half.
Junior wide out Davion Davis scored four times in the first half to push the Bearkats ahead. He took Sam Houston’s third play from scrimmage 44 yards for a touchdown and added grabs of 13 and 12 yards. He also scored on a 3-yard end around early in the second quarter. Davis finished with 131 yards on eight catches.
Nathan Stewart led Bearkat receivers with 180 yards on seven receptions. His 44-yard touchdown grab made it 34-14 with 3:39 left before halftime. SHSU forced a punt and went 87 yards in less than a minute to tack on one more touchdown before intermission.
Alex Gray intercepted Briscoe in the first half and Taylor Lambert and Darrin Greenfield each had sacks for the Coyote defense in the second. In addition to other accumulated losses, South Dakota played without starting defensive lineman Nathan Schultz, starting linebacker Alex Coker and, for most of the game, without starting safety Phillip Powell. Andrew Gray led USD with 13 tackles.
Note: Streveler broke the Missouri Valley Football Conference record for single-season passing yards in the middle of the second quarter. The new mark is 4,134 yards. Streveler finished with 4,854 yards of total offense this year, the eighth-highest total in FCS history. Streveler accounted for an FCS playoff record 571 yards Saturday (520 passing, 51 rushing).