September 17, 2015

(STATS) - Sam Houston State football players couldn't be found last Saturday - their team on its one bye of the season.

This week, it would not have been surprising if they were spotted in the lost and found department.

The Bearkats, though, have simply moved forward, barely fazed by the fact their team dropped from the No. 1 ranking after they sat out and Jacksonville State pushed SEC power Auburn to overtime and then ascended to the top spot.

Now third-ranked, Sam Houston (0-1) returns to the field Saturday when its host Lamar in the Southland Conference opener for both teams.

Having the top ranking is great, but the Bearkats advanced to the FCS championship game in 2011 and '12 and reached the national semifinals last season, so they have a different perspective on when they want to be No. 1.

"We've talked a lot with the team about what we have to do to accomplish our goals this year," said second-year coach K.C. Keeler, whose team tied for the Southland title last year. "Yes, we're preseason favorites and are in the top five in the rankings. But nobody gives you a championship. You have to go out and take it."

Like Jacksonville State, Sam Houston rose to No. 1 after losing to an FBS school, 59-45 at Texas Tech on Sept. 5. The top four teams in the STATS FCS Top 25 - also No. 2 Coastal Carolina and No. 4 North Dakota State, the four-time defending FCS champion - are close in voting totals, so it wasn't shocking Sam Houston dropped in the poll.

All the Bearkats can do is go out and try to impress again. Against Texas Tech, they rolled up 637 yards, powered by Donavan Williams' four touchdown runs and quarterbacks Jared Johnson and Jeremiah Briscoe completing 18 passes each.

Sam Houston holds a 26-9-1 series lead over Lamar, forcing four turnovers in last year's 42-10 win in Beaumont. The Cardinals (1-1) are coming off a 66-31 loss at Baylor.

"We've told the kids that every day we have to win the day," Keeler said. "Maybe it's a cliché, but it's true. We have to take things one day at a time. We have to win each day's practice and get better. Then we have to win the day on Saturday."

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