An unrelenting defense limited Sam Houston State to its lowest total offense and point total of the season ended the Bearkats’ dream season as North Dakota State posted a 17-6 victory in the NCAA Division I National Championship Game Saturday afternoon.
The Bison and the Bearkats both ended the season with 14-1 records but North Dakota State took home the trophy after a hard-fought battle at Pizza Hut Park.
Sam Houston was held to 95 yards rushing and 115 passing for a total offense output of 220 yards. The Bearkats came into the contest averaging 421.1 yards per game offensively.
Running back Tim Flanders led the Bearkat offense with 21 carries for 84 yards as he set a new Southland Conference record for most rushing yards in one season (1,642). He broke the old record of 1,593 yards set by Claude Mathis of Southwest Texas State in 1997.
Sam Houston’s defense kept the Kats in the fight for most of the contest. Kenneth Jenkins totaled 11 tackles and intercepted a pass. Darnell Taylor posted eight tackles and recovered a fumble.
Brandon Closner was a special teams standout with six punt returns for 53 yards including runbacks of 23 and 24 yards.
North Dakota State scored first on a 19-yard field goal by Ryan Jastrom with three seconds left in the first quarter. The Bison drove 67 yards in 10 plays for the score, settling for the three points after Will Henry and Robert Shaw stopped Sam Ojuri for no gain at the one on third and goal.
The Sam Houston defense came up with a pair of first half turnovers as Darnell Taylor recovered a fumble and Kenneth Jenkins intercepted a pass, but the Bearkats could not convert either opportunity into points.
Craig Alaniz tied the contest at 3-3 with a 24-yard field goal with 2:18 remaining before intermission to complete a nine-play, 41-yard drive. Matt Buse partially blocked a Bizon punt to set up the scoring drive. Flanders accounted for 37 of the 41 yards on the drive.
Less than a minute later, a 24-yard punt return by Brandon Closner set up a seven-play, 25-yard drive for a 31-yard Alaniz field goal with 40 seconds remaining in the second period.
The six points by Sam Houston in the first half marked the Bearkats’ lowest point output in the first 30 minutes of play during the 2011 season. SHSU scored eight points in the first half of the UTSA game.
A 27-yard run by Matt Voigtlander on a fake punt followed up by a 39-yard screen pass from Brock Jensen to D. J. McNorton put the Bison up 10-7 just two minutes and 13 seconds into the second half. The scoring drive covered 72 yards in five plays.
Travis Beck returned an interception 63 yards to set up a one-yard touchdown dive by Jensen to put the final nail in the victory with 8:45 to play in the fourth period.