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Sam Houston Triumphs Over Louisiana Tech in Historic CUSA Victory

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Kats Secure First Conference USA Win with Impressive 42-27 Victory at Joe Aillet Stadium

RUSTON, La. – Last week’s win was so nice for the Sam Houston Bearkats, they opted for an encore. 

Sam Houston forced four turnovers and led wire-to-wire in a 42-27 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday at Joe Aillet Stadium, the program’s first-ever win in Conference USA play. 

The Kats (2-8, 1-5 CUSA) scored in every quarter and put up 28 points in the second half, but it was a 45-yard pick-six by Kavian Gaither with 2:15 to play to seal the deal.  

Louisiana Tech (3-8, 2-5 CUSA) had just cut the Bearkat lead to 35-27 and forced a punt, taking over its own 20-yard line and Bulldog quarterback Hank Bachmeier immediately connected on a 33-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage to get it into Kat territory; however, pressure on the next play forced an errant pass that Gaither took advantage of, racing 45 yards down the SHSU sideline to put the game away. 

SHSU quarterback Keegan Shoemaker continued to be incredibly effective, completing 18 of his 28 passes for 269 yards and a score, while not throwing a pick and rushing for 54 yards and a touchdown. Noah Smith and Jax Sherrard each surpassed the 100-yard mark receiving, while defensive end Issiah Nixon found the end zone twice out of the backfield in a newfound role.  

Defensively, Gaither was everywhere, picking up a dozen tackles and forcing a fumble before his interception. Trevor Williams also racked up nine tackles and picked off Bachmeier on LA Tech’s final offensive play of the game.  

Sam Houston finished with 493 yards of offense and surrendered 501, but played cleaner than the Bulldogs, not turning the ball over and taking it away four times.  

The Kats burst onto the scoreboard in the first quarter on a 48-yard touchdown run by Adrian Murdaugh on the first drive of the game. LA Tech answered with a 53-yard field goal to get on the board on the ensuing drive, but the Kats’ would stretch the lead to 14-3 early in the fourth quarter when defensive end Issiah Nixon stepped in at running back and punched it in from one yard out to cap an 8-play, 62-yard drive early in the second quarter. 

The Bulldogs looked to answer, however, when Charvis Thornton broke through the line on the next drive and looked to be en route to an easy, 47-yard touchdown. But Bearkat defensive back had different ideas as he chased him down and forced a fumble just before the goal line that went out of the end zone to keep Thornton out of the end zone.  

That effort helped the Kats take a 14-6 lead into the break, and it did not take them long into the second half to add on. Sam Houston got to Thornton again in the third quarter, forcing another fumble on the second play of the second half. Shoemaker then led the Kats into the end zone, twice connecting with Jax Sherrard along the way, including an 8-yard touchdown with 10:56 left on the clock.  

LA Tech punched back with its first touchdown drive of the game, set up by a 44-yard grab by Cyrus Allen that put the Bulldogs into position for a 5-yard touchdown run by Keith Willis Jr. which cut the lead to 21-13. 

It only took Sam Houston three plays to get the score back as Shoemaker found Smith for 38 yards on the first play from scrimmage and then did it himself the right way with a 16-yard run and a 21-yard touchdown rush around the right end to push the lead back to 28-13. 

A double pass by LA Tech cut the lead to 28-20 near the end of the third quarter, but the Kats answered back after turning the Bulldogs over on downs and marching 48 yards in four plays with another big connection by Shoemaker and Sherrard setting up Nixon’s second touchdown of the game.  

The Bulldogs were not done, however, and got back to within a score with a 12-play, 64-yard scoring drive of their own and got the ball back again before the Bearkat defense stiffened and turned in its late-game heroics.  

– The win was the first over an FBS program for SHSU since defeating New Mexico in Albuquerque in 2011 
– Adrian Murdaugh opened the game with a spark, bursting forth for a 48-yard touchdown run on the Kats’ first drive of the game. He had just 47 rushing yards on 11 carries on the year prior to that run, one which was the longest rush by a Bearkat this year 
– Defensive lineman Issiah Nixon stepped in and punched in a pair of touchdowns, the first of his career. The Kats have now had five players rush for touchdowns in 2023, three of which are not listed as running backs 
– Noah Smith finished with 115 receiving yards on six catches. That effort pushed him over 2,500 all-purpose yards for his Bearkat career  
– Smith’s effort was also a career high and just the second game of his career with 100+ yards receiving. The last coming when he hauled in 10 grabs for 103 yards against North Dakota State in the quartefinals of the 2020 FCS Playoffs 
– Jax Sherrard got the start at tight end and finished with six grabs for 102 yards and a score, the first of his Bearkat career 
– It was the first time since Ife Adeyi and Jequez Ezzard went over 100 yards receiving vs Eastern Kentucky in 2021 that SHSU had a pair of 100-yard receivers in a game 
– Trevor Williams finished with nine tackles to lead the Kats, including four solo stops. His solo-stop total gives him 211 and moves him past Keith Davis and Lish Adams for sole possession of third place all-time at SHSU 

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