HAMMOND — This is a memo to any team that plays Sam Houston State: The Bearkats are not good homecoming opponents.
Southeastern Louisiana was the latest team to learn that lesson the hard way this season.
Playing in a game that was moved to earlier in the day, Sam Houston State turned in an efficient, but not stylish 38-9 victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday at Strawberry Stadium.
Sam Houston State (9-0, 6-0 in the Southland Conference) has an 11-game winning streak dating to last season. The Bearkats are ranked No. 4 in The Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision Poll and No. 5 in the FCS Coaches Poll.
It was the third time Sam Houston State ruined an opponent’s homecoming game this season. The Bearkats defeated New Mexico 48-45 in overtime on Sept. 24 and McNeese State 38-14 on Oct. 22.
Sam Houston State was led by quarterback Brian Bell and receiver Richard Sincere. Bell completed 11 of 20 passes for 164 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also rushed for 17 yards and two touchdowns on five carries.
Sincere rushed for 137 yards and one touchdown on nine carries and caught two passes for 58 yards.
“They’ve got some playmakers that made plays,” Southeastern Louisiana coach Mike Lucas said. “Our guys didn’t make the plays.”
Southeastern Louisiana (2-7, 0-5) has an 11-game Southland Conference losing streak.
“I thought we played pretty well tonight,” Lucas said. “The scoreboard doesn’t indicate that.”
The Southeastern defense, which has allowed more than 45 points in five games this season, showed marked improvement from last week’s 55-29 loss at Central Arkansas.
Bell came into the game second in NCAA Division I FCS with a 180.99 efficiency rating. He had completed 75 of 111 passes for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.
SLU is the only team to intercept passes by Bell this season.
Sam Houston State entered the game leading the Southland Conference in scoring with an average of 39.6 points per game. The Bearkats also lead the conference in total defense, allowing an average of 259.8 yards per game.
Southeastern Louisiana entered the game last in the conference in total defense, allowing an average of 445.8 yards per game, but was first in total offense (433.5 yards per game).
SLU drove the ball up and down the field, gaining 148 yards in the first half, but the Lions only scored three points on three drives inside the Sam Houston State 40.
SLU’s Seth Sebastian missed wide left on a 45-yard field goal on the first possession of the game, but hit on a 36-yard field goal on the second possession to give the Lions a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. He had another kick blocked in the second quarter.
“I felt like we moved the ball well,” SLU quarterback Brian Young said. “It’s just we couldn’t finish a drive.”
Sam Houston State drove 56 yards on six plays for a touchdown to take a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.
Running back Tim Flanders was the star of the drive, scoring on a 9-yard run up the middle and gaining 39 yards on a shovel pass on third and seven from the Bearkats’ 47.
Bell drove into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run on a bootleg on a fourth-and-goal play to increase the Bearkats’ lead to 14-3 with 8:36 left in the second quarter.
Bell jogged untouched into the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown run, which made the score 21-3 with 4:40 remaining. The score capped a two-play, 38-yard drive that was set up by a blocked field goal by Sam Houston defensive lineman Preston Sanders, which was recovered by defensive back Mike Littleton.
Sam Houston State used defense and passing game to increase the lead to 28-3 in the third quarter. Bell threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Flanders. The pass came one play after Sam Houston State defensive back Michael Jenkins stripped the ball from SLU quarterback Nathan Stanley and recovered the fumble. Stanley had just entered the game for Young, who completed 21 of 50 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Young later returned to the game in the fourth quarter.
“(The reason for the change) was a combination of things, because (Young) took some shots,” Lucas said. “He was a little woozy getting up off the ground a couple of times. So we thought we would give the other guy a shot.”
The Bearkats increased their lead to 31-3 when Craig Alaniz hit a 22-yard field goal with 12:28 remaining in the game.
SLU had record-setting day despite the loss.
Receiver Simmie Yarborough broke the Southland Conference record of 211 catches by former Sam Houston State receiver Matt Dominguez with a 3-yard reception in the second quarter. It was Yarborough’s fourth catch of the game.
“It’s hard to celebrate after that loss,” said Yarborough, who finished the game with nine catches for 114 yards. “That record comes from coaches, offensive line getting enough protection and the quarterbacks doing what they need to do. I’m getting the glory for it, but it’s more than me.”
Young moved into third place on the school’s all-time list for career pass attempts, completions and yards, passing Charlie Hebert (1982-84).