Sam Houston State looking for redemption
FRISCO, Texas - Tim Flanders still has the scene burned into his memory a year later.
The Sam Houston State running back watched North Dakota State celebrate a national championship as he made his way off the field at FC Dallas Stadium.
"I watched all their fans run on the field, watched all their players, coaches and everything," said Flanders, a junior who leads the Bearkats with 1,589 rushing yards this season. "I wanted to know what it feels like. Watching those guys, that right there, has been sticking to me the whole season, knowing that those guys had so much fun celebrating."
The Bearkats will have their chance for redemption at noon today when they face the Bison in a rematch of last year's Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game.
Sam Houston State head coach Willie Fritz downplayed the revenge factor.
"I feel like each team is different," Fritz said. "When the ball is kicked off, it's all about preparation. That stuff lasts about as long as the opening kickoff."
Bearkats wide receiver Richard Sincere, who also lines up at quarterback on some plays, also remembers the scene following NDSU's 17-6 victory in last year's FCS title game.
Sincere recalls being with Flanders after the game ended.
"We actually were the last two on the field because we stayed and watched," said Sincere, who is now a junior. "We don't want to have the same feeling again if we get another opportunity. We used it for motivation because we were all disappointed because of how the game turned out."
Like last season, the Bearkats enter this title game with an explosive offense with key players like Flanders, Sincere and quarterback Brian Bell still in place. Sam Houston is averaging 41.9 points per game coming into today. In last year's title game, the Bison didn't allow a Sam Houston State touchdown.
"They're a great defense," said Sincere, who has rushed for 574 yards through 14 games. "It's pretty much the same philosophy as they had last year."
The Sam Houston State offense has some differences than the one the Bison played against a season ago. The Bearkats have a more effective passing game and also run a no-huddle offense.
The Bearkats (11-3) don't have the same sparkling 14-0 record they had last season heading into the title game. However, they have faced a more difficult schedule this fall, playing Football Bowl Subdivision teams Baylor and Texas A&M. The Bearkats played against the Heisman Trophy winner, Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Sam Houston State has played 10 road games this season, including two playoff victories.
"We've played against some great guys, great competition, so it prepares us for other teams," said Bearkats senior cornerback Dax Swanson, who is the program's career leader in interceptions with 14.
"I think we are a lot better team than we were last year," added Sam Houston State senior offensive tackle Riley Smith.
Swanson is hoping for redemption.
"We were sick to our stomach," he said. "There are not too many feelings worse than that. We are using that to motivate us."