Sam Houston State runs all over Montana State
Huntsville, TX (Sports Network) - No. 1 seed Sam Houston State put the FCS' top-ranked scoring offense and scoring defense to good use on Saturday in ousting Montana State, 49-13, from the national quarterfinals at Bowers Stadium.
Richard Sincere's 160 rushing yards on 11 carries led a 428-yard ground assault and quarterback Brian Bell turned two of his five completions into touchdowns.
The Bearkats' quick-strike ability was evident in the fact Montana State held a five-minute edge in time of possession despite falling by the lopsided margin.
The Bearkats (13-0), the Southland Conference champions who have won an FCS- high 15th straight games dating to last season, next host the other Big Sky Conference co-champion, No. 4 seed Montana (11-2), in the semifinals either Friday (8 p.m. ET) or next Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET).
Montana and Sam Houston State have met twice previously in the FCS playoffs, with the Grizzlies winning both games at home, 49-24 in the 2001 quarterfinals and 34-13 in the 2004 semifinals.
Sam Houston State entered the weekend leading the FCS in scoring offense at 39 points per game and scoring defense at 13.8 points per game.
The Bearkats had to rally past Stony Brook, 34-27, in the second round last week, but were in control of Montana State for much of their first meeting since 1991.
The visiting Bobcats (10-3) had just pulled within 21-13 on DeNarius McGhee's 7-yard touchdown pass to Everett Gilbert early in the third quarter when Brandon Closner returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, which pushed Sam Houston State's lead back to a comfortable margin, 28-13 with 10:41 left.
Closner found a seam in the middle of the Bobcats' coverage and sprinted to his second touchdown of the season.
Following Closner's touchdown, Dax Swanson picked off McGhee with his Sam Houston State single-season record eighth interception to set up the Bearkats deep in Montana State territory. Ryan Wilson then scored on a 1-yard run with 7:39 left in the quarter to make it 35-13.
Torrance Williams' 56-yard touchdown run, off a pitch from Bell, extended Sam Houston State's lead to 42-13 with 5:10 left in the third quarter.
Williams added a second touchdown run of 21 yards with 9:12 left in the fourth quarter, making it 49-13.
Williams finished with 99 yards on five carries. The Bearkats dominated while getting only 38 yards on 10 carries from running back Tim Flanders, the Southland Conference Player of the Year.
In the first half, Sam Houston State rushed for 194 yards on 19 carries and took control by scoring three touchdowns while Montana State settled for field-goal attempts.
Two of the big plays occurred late in the second quarter.
Bell connected on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Sincere with 2:31 left for the 21-6 lead. The pass was tipped, but the ball flew into the arms of Sincere at the MSU 27, where he spun away from a defender and then bounced off two more en route to the spectacular touchdown.
McGhee then directed Montana State's two-minute offense to the Sam Houston State 22, but Jason Cunningham's fourth field-goal attempt of the half - a 39-yarder - was blocked by the Bearkats' Preston Sanders on the final play of the half.
Montana State scored first in the opening quarter following Na'a Moeakiola's interception of Bell at the Bearkats' 34. The Bobcats converted the turnover into Cunningham's 27-yard field goal with 9:04 left - his MSU single-season record 21st of the season.
Sam Houston State answered on its next possession, going 81 yards in eight plays and scoring on Bell's 11-yard pass to Grant Merritt in the back of the Montana State end zone with 4:50 remaining, making it 7-3 Bearkats.
Cunningham's 22-yard field goal just eight seconds into the second quarter cut Montana State's deficit to 7-6, but Sam Houston State again answered the field goal with a touchdown. Bell sprinted 54 yards up the middle on a quarterback draw to push the Bearkats' lead to 14-6 with 12:03 left.
Cunningham missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt with 9:25 left in the half.
For Montana State, which has 19 players from Texas high schools, including 15 on its travel roster, McGhee finished 21-for-36 for 267 yards. In addition to his interception, he turned the ball over on a fumble.
McGhee's favorite target was Elvis Akpla, the Bobcats' all-time leader in receiving yards, who added 100 more yards on six receptions.
Sam Houston State held a 501-344 edge in total yards.
12/10 20:55:36 ET