GoBearkats.com / Brandon K. Smith When it comes to offensive production, the Bearkats have been good about sharing the wealth. It’s not quite like last season, when Timothy Flanders and Richard Sincere dominated Sam Houston State’s run game, with Brian Bell and Torrance Williams also gave opposing defenses fits out of the triple option formation.
This season, as the Bearkats defend their undisputed Southland Conference title with a target on their back bigger than the Sam Houston statue, the challenge has been implementing new elements while trying to keep the champions’ identity intact.
But injuries to Williams and Sincere, the Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2011, have made the task more difficult. Sincere bruised his knee in the season opener against Incarnate Word on a 30-yard reception. Part of Sincere’s struggles this season have to do with teams game planning for him with a season full playoff worth of tape to scheme for.
The speedy back/receiver hadn’t looked the same until the Nicholls game, when he ran the ball for six times for 74 yards. Williams has battled the injury bug since spring football, also due to a knee injury.
Aside from his 30-yard touchdown catch against Stephen F. Austin that landed a No. 2 spot on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, Williams has been neutralized for the most part by his injury. Williams even sat out against Central Arkansas, Nicholls and McNeese State.
In Saturday’s 45-10 rout over McNeese, Sincere had 12 carries for 132 yards, and scored his first touchdowns of the year with runs of 44 and 65 yards. He also logged three catches for 23 yards.
Sincere said he was expecting to have a big game after the week of practice he had.
“I’ve just been staying positive and motivated to get back to where I was,” Sincere said. “Just being patient, really and trying not to get frustrated and just keep doing my rehab so I can get back to where I was.”
With Saturday’s performance, Sincere is actually playing better statistically through seven games than he was last season. After the 2011 McNeese game, Sincere had 57 carries for 363 yards, but he’d reached the end zone five times. Seven games into this season, the junior has 51 carries for 366 yards.
Sam Houston head coach Willie Fritz doesn’t talk a lot about injuries, because that’s why so many players are on the team, to step up in a way that the group doesn’t miss a beat.
“We don’t make a big deal out of injuries,” Fritz said. “We don’t sit there and say ‘woe is me, this guy can’t play and what are we going to do now.’ I don’t really talk about (injuries) that much. That’s why you’ve got a hundred guys on the team.”
Some of the guys who have filled in the playmaker roles are transfer receivers Chance Nelson and Terrance Robinson, and the Bearkats’ leading receiver Trey Diller, who has stepped up into an even bigger role than last season’s.
Although Diller is Sam Houston’s leader in receiving yards with 455, Nelson – a transfer from Texas A&M – has the most touchdown receptions with five. Nelson’s 14-yard touchdown catch on a post route against McNeese was the first of six touchdowns for Sam Houston on Saturday night.
“Chance is not a very big guy, but I’m very excited that we’ve got him for another three years after this season,” Fritz said of his 5-foot-10-inch, 165-pound receiver. “But for a slight guy, he’s really tough and he’s hard to take down. Both he and Richard are tough, hard-nosed runners. You don’t see that very often out of thin guys like those two.”
With three consecutive Southland Conference wins against SFA, Nicholls and McNeese, the Bearkats are looking more like the last year’s team than the one that started 2012 with a 1-2 record and a conference loss to Central Arkansas.
But no need to call it a comeback, because the Bearkats apparently never left the building.
“Every defense is going to have a game plan for us,” Flanders said. “They’re going to have to stop one of us. Richard had a very good game. Bell did a very good job.
“So it’s pretty much just pick your poison, just like last season.”