Courtesy GoBearkats.com / Ronnie Turner / Houston Chronicle
Considering his name rarely shows up in a box score, it is easy to understand why Sam Houston State offensive lineman Chris Rogers would have little obsession with numbers on a stat sheet.
The Bearkats’ starting center, however, became enamored with one number nearly a month ago – zero.
Zero was the number of sacks Sam Houston’s offensive line surrendered in a 47-28 loss to Cotton Bowl bound Texas A&M on Nov. 17. The figure was notably less than the two the Aggies recorded the previous week against then FBS No. 1 Alabama.
That marked the sixth consecutive game the Bearkat line had allowed no QB sacks (a streak that ran from Oct. 6 until Dec. 15). The streak was made more impressive because it included a matchup against a defense featuring one of college football’s top pass rushers in Damontre Moore.
“That’s when I thought – Ok, this is kind of cool,” Rogers said.
Sam Houston ran its streak to eight games before Eastern Washington posted a lone sack in the Bearkats’ 45-42 semifinals win in Cheney, Washington, that put SHSU in the NCAA Division I National Championship Game at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas, Saturday Jan. 5
For the year, the Bearkats have allowed only five sacks through 14 points for an average of 0.38 per contest that is the second lowest in the Football Championship Subdivision.
That sort of pass protection gave quarterback Brian Bell more than enough time to pick apart opposing defenses this season.
The offensive line’s ability to protect Bell in addition to its solid run blocking is a primary reason the Bearkats have become more multi-dimensional en route to posting the FCS’s second best scoring mark this season with 41.7 points per game.
“We run the ball first and we’re pretty daggum good at the run,” first year offensive line coach Bart Tatum said. “But the thing that has brought us to the national championship game is the ability to be two-dimensional.”
The responsibility for keeping Bell’s jersey clean and opening holes for running back Timothy Flanders (17 TDs) falls to a veteran-laden group of offensive linemen.
Surrounding Rogers, a senior, are sophomore Joey White and freshman Donald Jackson at the guards and senior Riley Smith and Kaleb Hopson at the tackles. Rogers, Jackson, Smith and Hopson were named All-Southland Conference. Hopson earned FCS All-America honors.
“We’ve just got to do what we’ve been doing all year,” Hopson said. “We’ve got to stay technique-sound and stay focused.”