Kennesaw State will need yet another excellent effort on defense to upset Sam Houston State in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs on Saturday night in Huntsville, Texas.
Game time is set for 8:30 p.m.
The Owls (12-1) have one of the division’s better defenses, but they haven’t faced a quarterback like the Bearkats’ Jeremiah Briscoe, who leads FCS with 4,398 passing yards and is one of three finalists to win the Walter Payton Award, which is given to the best player in FCS.
Briscoe, a senior who transferred from UAB, leads an offense that averages 46.6 points and 558.2 yards per game, both tops in the FCS. Sam Houston State (11-1) has scored at least 27 points in each game and advanced to third round of the playoffs by outshooting South Dakota 54-42. Briscoe passed for 505 yards and four touchdowns, and the offense totaled 708 yards in that win.
But he’s more than a one-man wrecking crew. The running backs, led by Corey Avery, averaged 185.5 yards per game. Three wide receivers, led by Nathan Stewart, average at least 85.7 yards per game.
Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon said Sam Houston State reminds him of a typical team from Texas, filled with speed and skill players on the edges.
“You want to try to prevent as many big plays as you can, get guys on the ground and live for the next down,” Bohannon said.
To contain them, the Owls will need tackle like they did in Saturday’s 17-7 win at Jacksonville State. Kennesaw State held the Gamecocks to just 187 yards. Running back Roc Thomas, a transfer from Auburn and the team’s best player, gained 77 yards on 17 carries, but 22 came on one carry. The rest of the game, Thomas usually had at least one tackler latched onto one of his ankles like a terrier with a T-bone.
“It was a huge deal last week with their running back,” Bohannon said. “You’re not going to bring him down by yourself. If you have 11 (players) playing hard … if the first one misses there are other guys coming.”
It’s something the Owls have been good at this season in allowing averages of 14.1 points (fourth fewest in FCS) and 287.5 yards per game (11th fewest).
“Physical up front, keep everything in front of them, run to the ball,” Sam Houston State coach K.C. Keeler said in describing Kennesaw State. “Very twitchy at linebacker.”