In the FCS Huddle: Why Sam Houston State will win FCS title
By Sean Shapiro, FCS Assistant
Philadelphia, PA (Sport Network) - Earlier this week, Montana coach Robin Pflugrad joked that he didn't think there was anyone in Missoula - on the football team or otherwise - quick enough to prepare for Sam Houston State.
Unfortunately for Montana, he was right.
That problem isn't contained to just Montana. No one in the country has been able to stop the undefeated Bearkats.
It's that team speed, on offense and defense, that will lead top-ranked Sam Houston State (14-0) to its first national championship on Jan. 7 in Frisco.
While North Dakota State knocked off Georgia Southern and its triple option, Sam Houston State's read option is difficult to prepare for and relies heavily on the speedy Tim Flanders.
Flanders, the Southland Conference Player of the Year, rushed for 287 yards in a 31-28 semifinal-round victory against Montana, and the sophomore will be the most talented back that North Dakota State will face this season.
However, Flanders isn't the only weapon on Sam Houston State's top-ranked offense. A wide receiver officially, Sincere operates the "Wild Bearkat" formation, which forces opponents to adjust on the fly.
When Sincere doesn't keep the ball, he has the option of handing off to Flanders or pitching to Torrance Williams, who has big-play ability on the edge and scored two touchdowns in the quarterfinals against Montana State.
He's not nearly as fast as Sincere or Flanders, but quarterback Brian Bell is one of the most efficient passers in the FCS. Unlike Georgia Southern, which didn't have the experience throwing the ball to prepare for North Dakota State, Sam Houston State has been able to throw the ball when necessary.
Against Montana, Brian Bell completed 11-of-14 passes for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns, using play action to take advantage of the defense's weariness about Flanders.
With three weeks between the semifinals and championship game, Sam Houston State's offense could become even more intricate. Throughout the season, the Bearkats have added different wrinkles and looks to its unique offense. Imagine what they could add with three weeks of preparation?
Of course, the defense puts its offense in a position to succeed by forcing turnovers. The Bearkats get into the backfield often and are a sure-tackling group, something that will be a necessity against North Dakota State's strong offensive line.
Having played a pair of close games on the way to the championship game - against Stony Brook and Montana - a close game would be nothing new to the Bearkats. In those close contests, the offense and defense each picked up valuable experience by making big plays late in the game.
Coach Willie Fritz and his staff at Sam Houston State also made important calls in those close games, including a decision to go for it on fourth down to seal the game against Montana. If, and probably when, it's a close game in the championship, Sam Houston State will have experience dealing with adverse situations.
The Bearkats also will have the advantage of playing a virtual home game in Frisco. While North Dakota State will have to travel a long way to Texas, Sam Houston State will benefit from playing three hours from home and likely have a large crowd make the trip as well.
12/17 20:41:58 ET