Sam Houston's 3rd Straight Comeback Win Nets Bearkats' First FCS Title

May 16, 2021 by Staff

Ife Adeyi caught  a 10-yard pass from Eric Schmid with 16 seconds left in the game to give Sam Houston State a 23-21 win over favored South Dakota State in the 2020 FCS Championship game on Sunday in Frisco, Texas.

It was the first meeting between the two schools as both were looking for their first FCS title. The Bearkats finished the season undefeated at 10-0 while the Jackrabbits closed out an 8-2 campaign with the heart-breaking loss.

The 2021 Spring season was an extension of the 2020 season which was postponed by the NCAA due to the coronavirus pandemic. Schools were allowed to play as many four non-conference games in the fall, but each of these teams passed on that idea. Only 17 schools at the FCS level played any games last fall.

Sam Houston State previously needed comebacks to win the semifinal over James Madison, and the quarterfinal over North Dakota State.

The game started amidst a heavy downpour that contributed to several miscues, including botched snaps on punts and slippery holds on field goals, and may have contributed to the injury of South Dakota State star quarterback Mark Gronowski. The player of the year in the Missouri Valley Football Conference came up gimpy after a 7-yard run in the opening series and never returned. Keaton Heidi would lead the Jacks the rest of the way.

Play was ultimately halted due to lightning with 8:25 to go in the second quarter and the score tied 7-7. After the 75-minute delay, South Dakota State resumed a drive that ended in a missed 43-yard field goal and Sam Houston State then marched 74 yards in 9 plays to take a 14-7 lead with Jequez Ezzard's second touchdown reception from Eric Schmid.

After a 3-minute halftime break, the Bearkats extended their lead to 17-7 in the 3rd quarter and held that margin until Isaiah Davis scored on a 28-yard run with 13:12 to remaining in the game. Davis would score his third touchdown on an 85-yard gallup with 5:41 remaining to give the Jackrabbits their first and only lead.

Schmid and the Bearkats then mounted the comeback drive that included two 4th-and-short conversions and ended with the pass to Adeyi.

Already a known commodity, Ezzard made a huge impression with a 10-catch, 108-yard, 2-TD performance. He also had a punt return touchdown nullified by an illegal block penalty away from the play, but nonetheless demonstrated his star power in another phase of the game.

South Dakota State's Davis accounted for all three of that teams' touchdowns as he scored from 1 yard, 28 yards and 85 yards while piling up 178 yards on the ground on just 14 carries.

Backup Sophomore QB Heidi played extremely well in place of the injured Gronowski, even if his stats were not stellar as he finished 11-of-22 for 106 yards. Heidi hasn't seen much action this season, but he was far from inexperienced. In 2019, he was 85-of-127 for 7 TD's when he started the last five games of the season.

Sam Houston State senior QB Schmid was 20-of-37 for 209 yards and the two TD tosses to Ezzard.

South Dakota State was a 4-point favorite at the sportsbooks and a 10.55-point pick by the Congrove Computer Rankings at Sam Herder at also picked the Jacks, but the staff at picked the Bearkats.

The computer was 9-6 SU and 8-7 ATS during the playoffs. Congrove's rankings were in their first season of assessing FCS teams after doing so in the FBS since 1993. At the FBS level, Congrove's rankings are an NCAA-recognized selector of the national champion. The computer's preseason forecast for the FCS correctly picked 5 of the 10 conference champions, including Sam Houston State.

The Bracket

First Round Quarterfinals Semifinals Final
(at Frisco, TX)
Upper Half
4/24 (*=home) 5/2 (*=home) 5/8 (*=home)    
Holy Cross (3-1) 3
*-#1 SDSU (6-1) 31
*-SDSU 31
*-SDSU 33
So. Illinois (6-3) 34
So. Illinois 26
*-Weber State (5-1) 31
4/24, 7 p.m.        
Sacred Hart (3-2) 10
*-Delaware (6-0) 19
Delaware 20
Delaware 3
Davidson (4-3) 14
*-#4 J'ville St. (10-2) 49
*-J'ville St. 14
Lower Half (Home Team On Bottom Of Each Pairing)
VMI (6-2) 24        
*-#3 JMU (6-0) 31
*-JMU 34
JMU 35
Missouri State (5-5) 10
*-North Dakota (5-1) 44
North Dakota 21
E. Washington (5-2) 20
*-NDSU (7-2) 42
Monmouth (3-1) 15
*-#2 SHSU (7-0) 21
*-SHSU 24
*-SHSU 38
Sam Houston State