NDSU's defense confounds Bearkats' high-scoring offense
FRISCO, Texas -- Sam Houston State hadn't seen a defense like North Dakota State all season -- regardless of division.
"This is the best defense we've played this season and I'm comparing that with (Texas) A&M and Baylor," said Bearkats head coach Willie Fritz, referring to the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams his team played in the regular season.
The Bison held the Bearkats to a season-low point total in a 39-13 victory for the Division Football Championship Subdivision title.
A key in controlling the Sam Houston State offense, which was averaging 41.9 points per game, was containing running back Tim Flanders.
Flanders, who rushed for more than 1,600 yards this season, was held to 53 yards on 19 attempts. That was Flanders' second-lowest rushing output this season. The 5-foot-9, 210-pound junior gained 49 yards in a 50-6 victory against Texas Southern. He played sparingly in that game and had just 10 attempts in the blowout.
"They did a nice job," Fritz said. "They crowded the box and they also did a good job out on the perimeter. They controlled the line of scrimmage."
Sophomore linebacker Carlton Littlejohn helped contain Flanders finishing with a team-high 11 tackles. Flanders long run of the game was 11 yards.
Flanders had a 41-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that was called back due to a holding penalty.
"They're smart on that side of the ball," said Bearkats junior Richard Sincere, who rushed for 33 yards and had 83 yards receiving. "Everybody is pretty much disciplined. It's tough yardage that you have to get."
Turnovers prove costly for Bearkats
One statistic that stood out to Fritz in the postgame was turnovers. The Bearkats had four, all interceptions, and the Bison had zero.
"In my 20-year career as a head coach if we are plus-1 we win 92 percent of our games," Fritz said. "You're not going to win with minus-4."
The Bison scored three touchdowns off Sam Houston State's first three turnovers.
"That was the biggest statistic in the game as well as the rushing (yards)," Fritz said.
Momentum didn't last
The Bearkats looked like they had grabbed the game's momentum, scoring with 33 seconds to play in the first half. Tight end K.J. Williams caught a 1-yard touchdown from quarterback Brian Bell that made the score 10-10 going into halftime.
In addition, Sam Houston State got the ball to start the second half.
"We felt good as an offense in the first half," Sincere said. "We knew that we just needed to play clean and play smart."
The Bearkats had 217 yards in the first half on 39 plays. That momentum didn't last with the Bearkats turning over the ball on their first drive of the third quarter. That set the tone for the second half.
"They really, really played well," Fritz said of the Bison. "Give them plenty credit."