By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
That Bearkats team was quarterbacked by Dustin Long, who had transferred from Texas A&M for his senior season and it would be one of few losses for the Bearkats that season. The team would reach the semi-finals of the FCS playoffs before losing to Montana. SHSU defeated Western Kentucky at home in the first round easily and came from behind at Eastern Washington in what might be considered the best playoff come back at least in my opinion where the Bearkats trailed by 20 going into the fourth quarter.
While the team lost at Montana, I expected this team would continue its winning ways despite the graduation of Long as well as the retirement of long time coach Ron Randleman.
But that season has proved to be the last time SHSU played a postseason game. This season, however, might prove to be the return of the Bearkats as they sit as just one of three FCS teams with an unblemished record.
What have the Bearkats done since their playoff appearance in 2004?
SHSU has gone through two coaches and previously finished with just three winning seasons and three losing seasons with just seven wins as the best season since that playoff spot.
The two coaches have since replaced Randleman. First was Todd Whitten but his overall record was just 25-28 in his five seasons. He was replaced last year by Willie Fritz and he finished 6-5 in his first season.
What has SHSU done this year so far?
As mentioned earlier, the Bearkats are undefeated and sit at 5-0 so far. SHSU has defeated most notably FBS New Mexico but also defeated 2010 playoff participants Western Illinois in non-conference play, as well as Stephen F. Austin in league play.
SHSU has also defeated first year football program Texas-San Antonio, as well as Central Arkansas in league play.
In total, the Bearkats have won by a total of 166-78.
The main offense performer has been running back Tim Flanders, a redshirt sophomore who transferred from Kansas State last year. He was the 2010 Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year.
Flanders has rushed for 546 yards and nine touchdowns thus far. He has also added a team high 14 receptions for a team tie high 200 yards through the air.
His quarterback has been sophomore Brian Bell mostly. He has thrown for 685 yards and six touchdowns without a touchdown.
Junior cornerback Darnell Taylor has been the leading defensive performer with his 43 tackles with three of those for a loss. Fellow junior cornerback Dax Swanson leads the team with four interceptions. In total, the defense is giving up just 15.6 points per game, which is third in all of FCS.
Who does SHSU have left on the schedule?
The Bearkats have two tough road games in perennial power McNeese State in two weeks and rival and now former SLC mate Texas State to end the season.
SHSU will also have home games against Nicholls State this week for homecoming as well as Lamar and Northwestern State. The Bearkats also have Southeastern Louisiana on the road.
With that remaining schedule, it appears as if the Bearkats will be back in the playoff field. For Bearkats fans, that 2004 season to now seems to be long overdue to get back.
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CSN WEST GAMES OF THE WEEK
Like last week, there are several key matchups this week. I will go over these briefly with my picks.
Nicholls State (1-5, 0-3 SLC) at Sam Houston State (5-0, 2-0), 3:00 pm Eastern
The Colonels have had poor performances in the second and third quarters thus far and SHSU has homecoming this week. I think this game could get out of hand. I will take the Bearkats by three touchdowns.
Sam Houston State 35, Nicholls State 14.
Northern Arizona (2-3, 1-2 BSC) at Montana State (5-1, 3-0), 3:05 pm Eastern
Offense should be well represented in this game considering Northern Arizona's Big Sky-leading attack (449.8 ypg), while Montana State is even better in Bobcat Stadium (37.3 ppg, 489.1 ypg). I think the MSU defense, however, is the better bunch and will help win this game but NAU has had MSU’s number—handing the only lose in conference play last year for MSU. I don’t think they will have that edge this year and I like the Bobcats by a touchdown.
Montana State 31 Northern Arizona 24.
Drake (5-1, 3-0 PFL) at San Diego (5-1, 3-0), 4 p.m. Eastern
In this game, the Bulldogs travel west in a key Pioneer Football League battle with the Toreros with the winner likely to keep up with favorite Jacksonville. This is another battle of two prolific offenses. Drake quarterback Mike Piatkowski has passed for 300 yards three times and has thrown for 12 touchdowns. USD is averaging 48.3 ppg in Pioneer League play, while Drake has put up 71 points in its last two contests. I think this will be just like their averages but like the home field for USD to pull out a game by a field goal.
San Diego 41 Drake 38.