FCS Top 25: No. 2 Bearkats have bigger plan
(STATS) - Sam Houston State may succeed in being the team that can give the proverbial 110 percent.
Third-year coach K.C. Keeler has been saying the Bearkats need to find an extra 10 percent of effort and production to complete what they've started in the FCS playoffs throughout the decade.
The Bearkats must like their start this season after moving up one spot to No. 2 in the STATS FCS Top 25 on Monday. They trailed only unanimous No. 1 North Dakota State, which received 167 first-place votes and 4,175 points, and were just ahead of Jacksonville State, which moved up one spot to No. 3.
Sam Houston (2-0) is coming off the 500th win in program history Saturday night, a 44-31 Southland Conference triumph at Lamar to avenge a loss last season. The Bearkats led 30-3 at halftime, defensive end P.J. Hall anchored an effort that kept Lamar All-America running back Kade Harrington out of the end zone and fellow junior Corey Avery proved to be the best running back on the field.
"I think at times we're playing at a really high level," Keeler said. "We've been a little disappointed leaving some points on the field offensively and giving up some big plays defensively. The potential for the offense is through the roof. We have some work to do for us to be as good as we want to be, but it seems to all be coming together in a positive way."
With their significant talent and experience, the Bearkats may threaten to go unbeaten in the regular season. But they're going to measure themselves on the postseason. In the last five years, they have lost in two national championship games and in two other semifinals, including last season's.
Quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe directs their offense, which leads the FCS with 633 yards per game. The Bearkats rank second in passing offense (358.5 yards per game) and third in scoring offense (51.5 points per game).
Sam Houston's playoff nemesis has been North Dakota State, which has won the last five FCS titles. The Bison (3-0) remained the rock of the FCS this past Saturday while 10 other nationally ranked teams lost. They knocked off then-No. 13 Iowa 23-21 on a game-ending field goal, a result that matched the second-highest FBS ranked team to lose to an FCS program.
Coach Chris Klieman's squad gained enough support to tie for the 27th spot in the AP FBS rankings this week. The Bison are on a bye leading up to their Missouri Valley Football Conference opener against Illinois State on Oct. 1.
Jacksonville State (2-1) gained a Top 25 win by edging Coastal Carolina 27-26. The Ohio Valley Conference champion, led by All-America quarterback Eli Jenkins, hasn't lost to an FCS team in the regular season since 2013.
Eastern Washington (2-1), which beat Northern Iowa 34-30 in the weekend's other Top 25 matchup, moved up four spots to No. 4. The Eagles were followed in the Top 10 by Chattanooga (3-0), Montana (2-0), Richmond (2-1), William & Mary (2-1), Illinois State (2-1) and The Citadel (3-0).
James Madison (2-1) remained in the No. 11 spot, followed by Charleston Southern (1-2), Western Illinois (2-0), Northern Iowa (1-2), South Dakota State (1-2), Youngstown State (2-1), Coastal Carolina (2-1), Eastern Illinois (2-1), Villanova (2-1) and Stony Brook (2-1).
Rounding out the Top 25 were North Carolina A&T (2-1), Albany (3-0), Colgate (1-1), McNeese (1-2) and Portland State (1-2).
Eastern Illinois, which beat Illinois State, and Stony Brook, which beat Richmond, moved into the Top 25, while Northern Arizona and New Hampshire fell out.
CAA Football and the Missouri Valley tied for the most Top 25 teams with six each. The Big Sky was third with three.
A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries select the STATS FCS Top 25. In the voting, a first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.