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Lamar in hopes of repeating last year’s stunner

SHSU-Lamar Matchup

Offense

  • SHSU: 668 yards (279 rushing, 389 passing); leaders Corey Avery (junior RB, 70 yards and 1 TD on 13 carries); Jeremiah Briscoe (junior QB, 338 yards and 3 TDs on 26-of-39 passing); Grant Finney (junior WR, 67 yards on 7 receptions)
  • Lamar: 232 yards per game (126 rushing, 106 passing); leaders Kade Harrington (senior RB, 230 yards and 2 TDs on 43 carries); Carson Earp (senior QB, 168 yards on 14-of-31 passing with two interceptions); DeWan Thompson (sophomore WR, 55 yards on 3 receptions)

Defense

  • SHSU: 366 yards (55 rushing, 311 passing); leaders Sammy Webb (senior CB, 6 tackles); Alfonzo McMillan (junior S, 4 tackles); Hunter Brown (sophomore LB, 2 tackles for losses)
  • Lamar: Davon Jernigan (sophomore CB, 22 tackles); Xavier Bethany (senior LB, 22 tackles, 1 interception, 22-yard return); Cameron Hampton (sophomore LB, 16 tackles)

Sound bytes

  • SHSU coach K.C. Keeler, on Lamar: “I think in their minds, they get a chance to start 0-0 in conference play. It’s a big game, and they’re going to be prepared for it.”
  • Lamar coach Ray Woodard: “I think on the field at Houston, [we] saw how good [the Cougars] were, and that’s fine. Across the board, we did some good things at times. I don’t think, top to bottom on the two-deep, we’re as good as Houston, but I think that’ll only harden us and get us ready to play a very good Sam Houston team.”

BEAUMONT — Sam Houston State has not played a game since beating Division II Oklahoma Panhandle State 59-21 two weeks ago.

Lamar has been beaten up by Coastal Carolina at home and at the University of Houston. Whether that’s a bad omen for the Cardinals going up against the No. 3 team in the Football Championship Subdivision, SHSU coach K.C. Keeler only hopes so.

“We have to get a jump on Lamar and make them think: ‘We’ve already come off two hard games,’” Keeler said. “’Here comes the third.”’

Keeler and the Bearkats (1-0) might face their own bad omen Saturday night.

They were ranked third this time last year when Lamar visited them. Running back Kade Harrington turned in a breakout game, rushing for 230 yards and two touchdowns and catching two passes for 83 yards and another score in a 49-46 upset victory.

Like last season, SHSU came off a bye week to play Lamar. Keeler learned from that experience.

“I really took some time to evaluate,” said the third-year Bearkats coach, who won a national title with Delaware in 2003. “It’s really unusual to have a bye week earlier this year. We just didn’t do enough real football early that bye week.”

The loss didn’t hinder the Bearkats’ playoff chances. They marched all the way to their fourth NCAA Division I semifinal in five years, falling to eventual runner-up Jacksonville (Ala.) State.
Saturday, the Cards (0-2) come in with a struggling offense.

Lamar’s passing game has averaged 106 yards an outing, causing Woodard to reopen his starting quarterback race between senior Carson Earp and junior transfer Austin Allen. Earp has struggled in accuracy (14 of 31 for 168 yards with two interceptions in two starts), while Allen completed 6 of 9 passes for 44 yards against Houston.

Keeler’s defensive goal is to make Lamar beat SHSU in the passing game.

“We’re going to have to be two-dimensional offensively,” Woodard said. “I think they’ll have an understanding of how good Kade could be and what they need to do to focus on that.”

Harrington, an All-American, is coming off one of his worst games in recent memory — albeit against sixth-ranked UH — contained for 23 yards on 15 totes.

Overall, the Cardinals have totaled 232 yards per game on offense, about half of what they’ve allowed opponents. They totaled 240 in the first half against Coastal Carolina before things went south.

“I know they want to show that: ‘Hey, we’re that team that first half against Coastal Carolina,’” Keeler said.

All-Americans
Each team should have an All-American on the field at the same time. Junior defensive end P.J. Hall of SHSU was named to five All-America lists the past two years.
Hall is second all-time in Bearkats’ history in sacks with 23, but did not collect one against Panhandle State.

Meaning of ‘Blasé’
Woodard was asked about the Cardinals’ play-calling against Houston when a reporter suggested the plays were ‘blasé’. The 55-year-old coach wasn’t sure what the term meant and asked another reporter to define it.
“We got a little generic against Houston, mainly due to the fact that we were trying to stay away from negative plays,” he said. “We did get conservative. I wouldn’t say we were … say that again?”
“Blasé,” the asking reporter responded.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Woodard continued. “We did get conservative, not because we went into that game with that idea, but because we were trying to stay away from negative plays.”

Tonight’s honorees
Prior to kickoff, members of the 1965 and 1966 Southland Conference championship Cardinals will celebrate the latter’s 50th anniversary. A special presentation will be made.
Lamar will recognize recently retired baseball coach Jim Gilligan, swimmer Lynnie Alfred Terry and former men’s tennis coach Ron Wesbrooks as the latest inductees of the Cardinals Hall of Honor at halftime. The actual induction ceremony is at 2 p.m. Saturday at the University Reception Center of the Mary and John Gray Library.

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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