NATCHITOCHES – Third-ranked Sam Houston State erupted in the second quarter and shackled Northwestern State's offense throughout Saturday's Southland Conference football contest at Turpin Stadium, rolling 52-17 after a 31-point tie-breaking second quarter.
The Bearkats (8-2 overall, 6-1 in the Southland) claimed a co-championship in the conference with Central Arkansas, which locked up its share of the title last week with a 35-14 homefield victory over NSU (4-6, 2-4). Sam Houston, last year's outright Southland champ and the national FCS runner-up, posted its seventh straight win since a 24-20 loss Sept. 22 at UCA.
The Demons were held to just six first downs and 183 total yards, only 42 on the ground, while losing for the second straight week for the first time this season. The Bearkats posted 509 total yards (253 rushing, 256 passing) and ran 31 more plays than the Demons (81-50) while notching 26 first downs and holding the ball for 38:33 to NSU's 21:27.
"That's a very good football team that is playing really, really well," said fourth-year Demons coach Bradley Dale Peveto. "Our guys played their hearts out. I couldn't ask for better effort. They went up top and hurt us in the passing game to get the upper hand and we just couldn't get any traction offensively.
"My hat's off to Coach Willie Fritz and his team. They're tough to defend and they are tough to move the ball against," he said. "They made a lot more plays in all three phases than we did."
Northwestern did get an 82-yard kickoff return touchdown by true freshman Ed Eagan that answered SHSU's first score, a 55-yard run by Tim Flanders late in the first quarter, knotting the game at 7-all.
The Bearkats scored on their next two possessions and six of their next seven to blow the game open. A 10-play, 55-yard drive netted a 34-yard Miguel Antonio field goal 21 seconds into the second period made it 10-7, and a 50-yard Brian Bell pass to tight end T.J. Jones on the first play after an ensuing NSU punt boosted SHSU ahead 17-7.
Defensive back Bookie Sneed dashed 11 yards with an interception 7:54 before halftime to move Sam Houston up 24-7. It was the first pickoff suffered by Demons' senior quarterback Brad Henderson in 115 attempts, and only the third interception he's thrown this year.
Bell laced a 38-yard bomb to Trey Diller 2:57 before halftime to cap a 68-yard drive and make it 31-7, then threw his third TD strike of the quarter with a 10-yarder to Chance Nelson 18 seconds before the half that ended a 10-play, 61-yard march moving the score to 38-7.
Northwestern got the half's last points on a 27-yard John Shaughnessy field goal at the horn, set up by a 53-yard Henderson bomb to Clifton Brown, who made a nifty run before being hauled down at the 10 with 3.7 seconds showing.
Flanders, who posted his 22nd career 100-yard rushing game with 138 on 17 tries, powered in from four yards out midway through the third quarter, ending a 14-play, 80-yard drive for a 45-10 lead. Backup quarterback Chris Grett plunged in from two yards out with 8:09 left to play to wrap up a 12-play, 52-yard series.
Henderson and junior receiver Louis Hollier hooked up on a pair of pretty pass plays, a sensational 30-yarder down the NSU sideline to the SHSU 5, then a fade route with Hollier making a twisting grab of a 4-yard TD lob with 5:47 left. That wrapped up a 63-yard drive by the Demons and gave them their only offensive touchdown of the game.
With 21 NSU seniors making their final homefield appearance, the Demons missed closing out an unbeaten home slate and were assured of a losing season.
Senior safety Brashard Booker had a career-high 16 tackles while two-time All-America linebacker Derek Rose, also a senior, also posted a career best with 14 stops, matched by junior backer Pat Black.
The Demons will wrap up their season next Saturday afternoon in a 3 p.m. visit to old rival Stephen F. Austin, in the annual "Battle for Chief Caddo," the largest trophy in sports. The contest will be shown on Southland TV.