October 7, 2017
2017 Battle of the Piney Woods
HOUSTON, Texas – In the 92nd edition of the Battle of the Piney Woods, the Stephen F. Austin football team left all it had on the field but was unable to upend 11th-ranked Sam Houston State Saturday afternoon inside NRG Stadium in Houston, falling by a score of 27-16. Despite forcing three turnovers, collecting an onside kick and seeing the Bearkats (4-1, 2-1 Southland) commit 13 penalties for 144 yards, the Lumberjacks (2-4, 2-2 Southland) were outgained 508 to 219 in total offensive yards.
Sam Houston State racked up 198 yards on the ground and another 325 through the air, holding SFA to just 14 rushing yards and a 3-of-16 third-down conversion rate in the pivotal Southland Conference matchup.
The Bearkats wasted no time in scoring, marching down the field in eight plays and going 71 yards in just 2:47. A 10-yard run by Sam Houston State’s Corey Avery at the 12:13 mark of the opening quarter was the first score of the game as the Bearkats took a 7-0 lead on SFA.
A Lumberjack miscue on just their second play from scrimmage resulted in seven more quick points for Sam Houston State. A mishandled handoff by sophomore starting quarterback Jake Blumrick (Pearland, Texas) to senior running back Kijana Amous (Mansfield, Texas) resulted in the football on the ground as the Bearkats pounced on the poor connection. Starting its drive at the Lumberjack 12, Sam Houston State wasted no time in scoring and made it into the end zone when reigning Walter Payton Award winner Jeremiah Briscoe found Davion Davis for a 14-yard strike. The touchdown pass was Briscoe’s 85th of his career, setting an all-time Bearkat record.
Trailing 14-0 after just over four minutes of play, the ‘Jacks weren’t able to get anything going offensively but forced Sam Houston State to punt for the first time of the afternoon on the Bearkats’ third drive of the game. Sam Houston State tacked on another three points to go up 17-0 with 3:49 remaining in the first quarter when Tre Honshtein connected on a 31-yard field goal, capping a 10-play, 55-yard drive.
Through one quarter of play SFA had just nine offensive yards and two first downs, compared to 146 yards and nine first downs by the Bearkats.
A 52-yard interception by sophomore safety Alize Ward (San Diego, Calif.), his third of the season, ignited the Lumberjacks’ first score of the game. Unable to record a first down following the interception, sophomore kicker Storm Ruiz (League City, Texas) knocked through a 42-yard field goal to make it a 17-3 score with 9:23 to go in the first half.
A big fourth-down stop by the SFA defense at the 6:48 mark of the second quarter began a nine-play, 68-yard scoring drive for the ‘Jacks. Thanks to 53-yard downfield connection from Blumrick to sophomore wide receiver Tamrick Pace (Brownsboro, Texas), SFA had the ball inside the red zone for the first time of the afternoon. A two-yard reverse run by senior wide receiver Trae Hart (Mesquite, Texas) got the ‘Jacks down to the one-yard line but brought up fourth-and-one. A one-yard scamper by Blumrick on the fourth-down play gave SFA its first touchdown of the game, making it a one possession game at 17-10 with 3:29 showing in the second quarter.
On Sam Houston State’s ensuing possession, SFA came away with their second takeaway of the game when sophomore linebacker Anthony Jacobs(Houston, Texas) forced a fumble and freshman safety Trenton Gordon (Rowlett, Texas) jumped on the ball at the Bearkats’ 20. However, the ‘Jacks were unable to convert on a third-and-10, resulting in a 33-yard field goal by Ruiz. The score made it a 17-13 contest with 2:12 left in the half.
Setup by a 60-yard kickoff return, the Bearkats ended the first half on an eight-play, 33-yard drive that resulted in a 25-yard field goal from Honshstein as time expired on the first half.
Trailing 20-13 heading into the locker room, SFA had just 90 yards of total offense on 32 plays in the opening 30 minutes. Despite giving up 241 yards, including 183 through the air, to the Bearkats and gaining only four first downs, the Lumberjacks’ two first-half takeaways kept SFA within one possession.
On just the fourth play of the second half, Blumrick had a pass tipped and then intercepted by the Bearkats’ Hunter Brown, giving Sam Houston State the ball at the SFA 24. Without being able to collect a first down on the next four downs, the Bearkats attempted a 40-yard field goal that was missed left, allowing the ‘Jacks to take over on downs at the 12:01 mark of the of the third quarter.
A key fourth-down stop by SFA near the end of the third quarter brought a halt to a 11-play, 92-yard Sam Houston State drive. Stopping the Bearkats at the Lumberjack one-yard line on a fourth-and-goal rush, SFA took over on downs but was unable to get anything going. With the ‘Jacks forced to punt, senior safety Marlon Walls (Pearland, Texas) picked up a mishandled punt catch by Sam Houston State, giving SFA a fresh set of downs at its own 49. After a delay of game penalty and then a pair of incompletions, a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty advanced the ball to the Bearkats’ 41. The ‘Jacks got the ball down inside the 10 before being stopped on third down as Ruiz made his third field goal of the game, a 27 yarder that got SFA back within four at 20-16 with 11:14 to go.
Head coach Clint Conque made a gutsy call on the ensuing kickoff, resulting in the Lumberjacks’ fourth takeaway of the game. An onside kickoff by junior punter Caleb Lewallen (Kingwood, Texas) was excellently executed as Ward came up with his second turnover of the afternoon, giving SFA the ball at its own 49. After a 35-yard hookup from Blumrick to junior Texas A&M transfer wideout Frank Iheanacho (Houston, Texas), the ‘Jacks had first-and-10 at the Sam Houston State 16. However, the scoring opportunity would not pay dividends as Blumrick saw his would be go-ahead touchdown intercepted in the end zone by the Bearkats’ Danzell Sims.
The SFA turnover would prove to be the last momentum changer in the contest as the ‘Jacks were pinned on their own side of the field for the remainder of the game.
An eight-play, 73-yard drive that lasted just over three minutes clinched the game for the Bearkats with a 26-yard touchdown run by Briscoe on a broken play. The quarterback rush with 4:55 remaining in the game gave Sam Houston State a 11-point, 27-16 lead.
SFA had one last possession but after a first down could not convert a third-and-nine and punted with just 3:10 left. The Bearkats were able to eat up the final 3:10 of play after a 43-yard run by Avery.
Blumrick finished the game with a career-high 205 passing yards on 18-of-39 completions, while Pace had the Lumberjacks’ first 100-yard receiving game of the season with six receptions. Ward led the team on defense with 12 total tackles, including six solo stops, a half tackle for loss and his 52-yard interception. Jacobs finished with 11 total tackles, including six solo, while senior cornerback Trent Perriman (Miami, Fla.) posted a career-high 10 tackles that included a game-high eight individual stops.
Briscoe passed went 30-for-51 for 325 yards as Davis had 151 yards receiving on 13 catches. Avery finished with 85 rushing yards, followed by 43 from Jordan Brown.