Sam Houston State ousts Montana State to reach semifinals

Montana State entered its FCS quarterfinal matchup with a shot a redemption, after Sam Houston State ended its season in the playoffs one year ago.

In last year's FCS quarterfinal, Montana State allowed 428 rushing yards. Friday night, Sam Houston beat Montana State again, this time through the air, 34-16, to again reach the semifinals again.

Quarterback Brian Bell completed 11-of-21 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Chance Nelson in the second half, and the Bearkats picked up a huge road playoff win.

Sam Houston State (10-3), the national FCS runner-up in 2011, will move on to face either Eastern Washington or Illinois State next weekend.

Coach Willie Fritz's squad got on the scoreboard first after a DeNarius McGhee interception set up a Miguel Antonio field goal, giving the Bearkats a 3-0 with 4:01 left in the first quarter.

Montana State responded with its own scoring drive, but the team would have to settle for a 26-yard Rory Perez field goal, which tied the game, 3-3, after one quarter of play.

The second quarter, however, was dominated by Sam Houston.

The visiting Bearkats scored 17 unanswered points and shut down the Bobcats' offense, forcing them to punt on every possession in the quarter.

Richard Sincere scored a 12-yard touchdown on a direct snap to put SHSU ahead, 10-3, early in the quarter. The Bearkats then struck again less than five minutes later, as receiver Trey Diller broke free for a 56-yard touchdown pass from Bell with 9:41 left in the first half.

Montana State made a defensive stand inside the 10-yard line before halftime, holding Sam Houston to three points and a 20-3 lead at the break.

McGhee rushed for 48 yards and passed for 61 yards through two quarters of play, and Diller had three catches for 104 yards.

MSU opened the second half with a three-and-out, but on a 4th-and-4 inside its own territory, coach Rob Ash rolled the dice, faking a punt, and it paid off. The drive stayed alive and eventually McGhee scored from 8 yards out with 9:05 in the third quarter. The lead was cut to 20-9 after a missed extra point.

Momentum shifted back to Sam Houston, after MSU receiver John Ellis had the ball striped from his hands by Dax Swanson, and Andrew Weaver recovered the ball on the Bobcats' 16-yard line.

One play later, Bell found Chance Nelson for a touchdown and the 'Kats led 26-9 with 2:49 left in the third quarter.

The duo hooked up again on the team's next possession - this time on a 3rd- and-16 - for 45 yards to put the game away at 34-9 lead with 12:18 remaining in the game. The touchdown capped off a seven-play, 74-yard drive.

Nelson finished with five receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns.

Sam Houston rushed for 204 yards, with running back Timothy Flanders carrying the ball 31 times for 106 yards. Sincere added eight carries for 30 yards and the one touchdown.

Montana State was held to just 72 rushing yards and 1-of-12 on third down conversions. McGhee passed for 221 yards and one touchdown. However, his interception and the team's lost fumble led to 10 points for SHSU.

Bell added to his own school record for wins as a starting quarterback and now has 29 in his career. It's the second straight year the Bearkats advanced to the national semifinals.