Courtesy GoBearkats.com / Brandon K. Smith / SHSU Athletics
To hear the record-breaking Timothy Flanders tell it, his brilliance on the football field is the product of a system and a credit to the supporting cast around him.
Flanders always suggests his success is about the team, regardless of how much the team may depend on him to keep them afloat.
But after Flanders netted a school-record 287 yards on the ground Friday in Sam Houston State’s 31-28 victory over Montana, a record held by McNeil Moore (286 yards) since 1951, there is little room for modesty.
It was just another one of the many records the running back from Midwest City, Okla., has set in his two seasons at Sam Houston.
Flanders holds the school record for most 100-yard rushing games in a season by a freshman and the most consecutive games with 100 yards or more from his play last season.
Now, Flanders has the most career 100-yard games, the most points in a season and the most single-season rushing touchdowns in Sam Houston history.
Bearkats quarterback Brian Bell said what makes Flanders so awesome is his humility and also admitted that being able to hand the ball off to him made the quarterback play so much easier.
“As you can tell he’s the most modest guy on the team,” Bell said. “He takes no credit for anything and he’s the best player I’ve probably ever played with, offensively.”
At Friday night’s postgame press conference, Montana head coach Robin Pflugrad was asked if he’d ever seen a running back like Flanders.
“Yeah, he looked like Barry Sanders to me tonight,” the Montana coach said after the game. “He has some gears. He’s got a great jump cut. He looks like Barry Sanders on the jump cut; there’s nobody else I can compare him to.”
The jump cut was Montana’s downfall in the first half. Flanders scored on the longest run (69 yards) of his career to help put the Bearkats up 14-0 with six minutes to go in the first quarter. He ran for a total of 98 yards and averaged 24.5 yards a carry in that period.
By halftime, Flanders had 194 yards on the ground, just 1 yard shy of his single-game record for the season.
“First of all, I just want to say that I’m blessed to be with the type of teammates that I’m with,” Flanders said after the game. “I wish every offensive lineman could be up here right now doing the interview with me because without them guys and the receivers blocking downfield, none of this would be possible for us.”
The possibilities of what could have happened if the Bearkats didn’t successfully complete their final drive with six minutes to play and a three-point lead are something to consider after this game.
At their own 47-yard line, the Bearkats faced fourth-and-1 with a little more than two minutes to play. All they needed was 1 yard and there was no doubt the Bearkats would lean on Flanders to pick up that yard.
Flanders ran for 22 yards on the fourth-down play, seven more on the next down, then nine yards after that one for a game-clinching Sam Houston first down.
It was the moment the Bearkats started celebrating and realized their destiny was in Frisco this season.
For Flanders, it was only fitting that he’d have his best game of this unprecedented season at Bowers Stadium before a hollering and screaming crowd of 12,367.
Less than half that number showed up for Sam Houston’s season opener against Western Illinois.
“He knows he had a heck of a game, but he ain’t going to tell you that,” Bell added. “That’s why he’s the best.”