The further along in the playoffs they get and the smaller the number becomes of teams remaining alive, the Bearkats know that it won’t get any easier.
That’ll certainly be the case when Sam Houston hosts Montana State in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs Saturday morning at Bowers Stadium.
“We knew that once we got started with the playoffs, every game was going to be tough. There’s no easy teams in the playoffs, the way we look at it,” Kats do-it-all sophomore Richard Sincere said after Thursday’s practice was finished.
“We’re only thinking about the one game in front of us. We never try to look ahead. … We’re just thinking about the game that we’re going to play on Saturday and try to come out 1-0. That’s our goal.”
On the heels of their 34-27 come-from-behind victory over Stony Brook in last weekend’s second-round playoff game, the Bearkats know that they have their hands full against a potent offense.
Spearheading the Bobcats offensive attack is sophomore quarterback DeNarius McGhee, a dangerous dual-threat quarterback who threw for 167 yards with a passing touchdown and burned the New Hampshire defense for 96 yards on 11 carries and a pair of rushing scores in Montana State’s 26-25 second-round playoff victory.
Defending McGhee presents a different challenge for Sam Houston’s defense, which hasn’t faced many mobile quarterbacks this season. The Kats are confident, though, that they’ll be able to keep the Bobcats signal-caller contained and in check.
“It really doesn’t change anything. A mobile quarterback – we’ve seen a few of them, so we’re ready,” senior linebacker Will Henry said. “We’ve got speed. They’ve got speed. They’ve got guys that can run, but we’ve got guys that can run to the football, guys that can tackle.”
While McGhee poses a threat when he tucks the ball in and runs, sophomore running back Cody Kirk complements the running game with a balance of speed and strength.
“The offensive line is a veteran line and our defensive line has got to win up front. Basically, we’ve got to make tackles,” Henry said.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bearkats know they can’t wait until the second half to get into a rhythm and start putting points on the board, like they did against Stony Brook, not against a team like Montana State.
“We kind of started off slow last week, but we’re going to step it up this week,” Sincere said.
“We’ve been emphasizing it all week that we’re going to start off fast and get ahead and they’ll be playing from behind.”
In their second-round playoff victory, the Bobcats got after New Hampshire’s backfield, finishing the game with a total of 12 tackles for negative yardage.
Sophomore defensive end Brad Daly solidifies the defensive line, which is one of Montana State’s strengths, with his penchant for getting after the quarterback, leading the team with 12 1/2 sacks.
“As far as their defense, they’re not really out of sync all the time. You won’t really catch them out of position,” Sincere said. “They’re a good, solid defense, so we’re just going to come out and play hard, play fast and get after it.”
But as stout as the Bobcats defensive line appears, the Bearkats believe there are matchups that can be won.
“Our coaches, they drew up some schemes and changed a few things. We’re going to try to get after their schemes with what we do best and try to see what we can come up with,” Sincere said.
Another point of emphasis the Sam Houston defense wants to have success in is getting pressure on McGhee and the Bobcats backfield.
On several occasions in last Saturday’s game against New Hampshire, McGhee was forced to escape the pocket and then tried to make throws into spaces windows. What resulted were three interceptions from the Wildcats, one of which was returned for a 58-yard touchdown.
“That’s what we expect to do Saturday. We expect to bring pressure, get in his face and get him to make bad decisions,” Henry added.