The SFA Lumberjack football team lost to the Sam Houston State Bearkats 31-20 in the annual Battle of the Piney Woods. The Jacks have now lost nine straight matchups dating back to 2011. 

Senior wide receiver Tamrick Pace opened the game with a 45-yard return which set up the Jacks’ offense in Bearkat territory. However, the first drive didn’t result in points as senior kicker Storm Ruiz missed a 45-yard field goal. 

The Jacks’ defense held their ground in the first quarter as they prevented Sam Houston State from reaching a first down. They forced an interception made by senior cornerback Aretavious Hendrix. 

“I was really pleased with their team effort,” said head coach Colby Carthel. “As you all know, we’ve got a pretty young team, and we’re learning every week. In defense, the coaches had a really good game plan and completely dominated that first half. I think the defense definitely gave us a chance to win the game.”

SFA got the first points on the scoreboard as junior running back Josh McGowen had a two-yard carry into the endzone to make the score 7-0. McGowen’s touchdown was set up on the previous play as sophomore quarterback Trae Self completed a 42-yard pass to Pace.

The Jacks extended their lead once more as a 15-play 54-yard drive resulted in three points after a 30-yard field goal from Ruiz. 

The Bearkats scored with 6:33 left in the first half after a 50-yard pass from redshirt sophomore quarterback Ty Brock to senior wide receiver Nathan Stewart. The play set up a touchdown run by Donavan Williams to make the score 10-7. With the reception, Stewart moved up to number nine in all-time receiving yards in FCS history with 4,230 yards.

Sam Houston State gained the lead for the first time before halftime on a trick play as Brock threw a pass to freshman wide receiver Noah Smith. Smith completed a 32-yard pass in the endzone to freshman receiver Ife Adeyi making the score 14-10. 

After a scoreless third quarter, the Bearkats extended their lead to 17-10 in the beginning of the fourth after a 12-play 92-yard drive resulted in a successful 23-yard field goal attempt by redshirt sophomore kicker Connor Crow. On the ensuing drive, Ruiz kicked a career-long 51-yard field goal cutting SHSU’s lead 17-13 with 11:10 left in the game. 

On Sam Houston’s next possession, Brock’s pass was picked off by senior cornerback Eli Jones who returned it 28 yards to the end zone. SFA regained the lead 20-17 with 10:36 remaining. After trading punts, the Bearkats took the lead once more 24-20 as Brock completed a 45-yard touchdown pass Stewart. 

SFA tried to answer back, but Self was sacked by junior defensive tackle Joseph Wallace. The fumble was recovered by senior linebacker Royce See. Three plays later, Williams carried the ball to the end zone from 10 yards out to win the last touchdown of the game, making the score 31-20.

Self completed 28 out of 52 attempted passes for 260 yards. He had three passes intercepted and four sacks. For SHSU, Brock completed 24 out of 42 attempted passes for 256 yards, one touchdown, three intercepted passes and one sack.

“We had a lot of fun out there, and this game is supposed to be fun,” Carthel said. “It was a good, fun and entertaining football game between two good teams, and the better team won. Everybody saw that, and everybody knows what we’re headed to. We’re working hard to get there. Those things take time. We’ve got to get the program going in the right direction—I think we are, but it doesn’t show up in the win column just yet.”

SFA enters a bye week and will return to action Saturday Oct. 19 at 3 p.m. as they travel to face Abilene Christian University which can be heard on Q107.7.

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