BOZEMAN — Brian Bell threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns, leading Sam Houston State to a 34-16 win over Montana State in the quarterfinals of the 2012 FCS Playoffs in Bozeman on Friday.
Bell and the balanced Bearkats rolled up 458 total yards, including 204 on the ground. Tim Flanders gained 106 yards, helping SHSU possess the ball for 36 minutes. Sam Houston’s pressure-oriented defense produced five sacks, two turnovers, and limited the Bobcats to just 292 total yard
The net effect was not lost on Bobcat defensive end Caleb Schreibeis. “They’re just a good team,” the MSU senior said.
Sam Houston State jumped on the board early, driving 42 yards on its second possession to set up a 24-yard Miguel Antonio field goal. The Bobcats answered, driving 62 yards on its next possession with Rory Perez converting a 27-yard field goal. The drive could have produced more, though, as a lateral from DeNarius McGhee to offensive tackle Steven Foster was ruled a forward pass, negating the ensuing touchdown.
After a first quarter played on nearly even terms, SHSU established itself in the second quarter. The Bearkats drove 79 yards on its first drive, with Richard Sincere scoring on a 12-yard run. After forcing a three-and-out, the Bearkats capitalized on the first several big plays. Bell found Trey Diller behind the Bobcat secondary for a 56-yard scoring strike, the Sam Houston State owned a 17-3 lead.
While the Bearkat offense was piecing together drives, SHSU’s defense stifled the Bobcats in the second quarter. The Bobcats ran only nine plays in the period, gaining just 13 yards.
“It was the perfect storm of not getting things done,” Ash said of his team’s second quarter. But, the MSU defense gave the team a boost late in the half. Sam Houston marched to the MSU one-yard line, and appeared ready to blow the game open. But the Bobcat defense stiffened, and the Bearkats settled for a field goal.
Montana State turned that boost into an actual rally after halftime. The Bobcats forced a three-and-out on the SHSU initial drive, the marched 75 yards for a touchdown. DeNarius McGhee scampered in from eight yards out to get MSU within 20-9 after the missed PAT.
Sam Houston State punted to MSU on the next drive, pinning the Bobcats at the three. On a third-and-six from its own seven, McGhee found Jon Ellis for a first down, but Ellis fumbled and the Bearkats recovered. SHSU scored on the next play, and the game was essentially over.
McGhee finished the day 16-for-29 passing, but was under pressure most of the day and his one interception set up an SHSU field goal. MSU gained just 72 net yards on the ground, with McGhee’s 36 leading the way. Tanner Bleskin’s 76 receiving yards led the Bobcats, while Ellis had 67.
Sam Houston State, 10-3, advances to the semifinal round of the playoffs, facing the winner of Saturday’s Eastern Washington-Illinois State game. The Bobcats’ season ends with an 11-2 mark, the program’s most wins since 1984.
— MSU Sports Information