Kats looking for answers against A&M Commerce

·5 min read

Sep. 17—HUNTSVILLE — Sam Houston football has opened its 2022 football season with back-to-back losses for the first time since 2015, and is just a year removed from winning the 2020 FCS National Championship.

The Kats (0-2), however, are facing a completely rebuilt roster and coaching staff and are in a transition year where their nine-game season plays for nothing in the end.

SHSU will have another chance to get things going against another transitional school in Texas A&M Commerce (1-1, 0-0 Southland). The Lions will be making the jump to the Football Championship Division from D-II this season and have split their two games this season.

As the Bearkats have struggled to find their offensive groove this season, they will try and get something going with quarterback Jordan Yates. Sam Houston has yet to find the endzone with their new signal caller and is in an eight-quarter touchdown drought.

Sam Houston head coach K.C. Keeler has stated that Yates will remain the starter for the game against A&M Commerce and that he will not have a tight leash but that junior quarterback Keegan Shoemaker will be available early, if necessary.

"We are struggling at the quarterback spot and we have to figure it out," Keeler said. "We will figure it out early in the game. Jordan has so much ability but just a little bit of hit-and-miss."

Yates this season has completed 27 passes for 202 yards. The offensive line he is playing behind hasn't provided stellar protection. Yates is currently the leading rusher for the Kats with 134 yards that have come off scrambles. He has also been sacked seven times in two games.

Making a move to Shoemaker feels likely for the passing game as Shoemaker may make quicker reads to the Bearkats' receivers. Shoemaker has already played with this team for a season, but making the move means losing your most efficient player.

"I want to see him go out there and play clean," Keeler said. "We've talked about a lot of moving parts in the game and we need him to play cleaner. We have to build a game plan around his skill set that we feel good about."

Yates currently leads the team in rushing yards, as the Kats have struggled to get anything going with Oklahoma State transfer Dezmon Jackson.

Jackson has 21 attempts through two games and has rushed for 73 yards. With a struggling offense, the Kats will need to get some sort of run game going despite the struggles up front.

While there has been a struggle with pass protection and the run game, there doesn't seem like there will be a big difference with the five guys upfront for the Kats. With all but one guy being on the team last year, it seems that reps are what the Bearkats are looking to bolster the line after a strong performance against A&M.

"I think we were so excited with how we protected against A&M that we thought the offensive line was set and we could move on," Keeler said. "We struggled early against Northern Arizona and that shocked all of us. That is a talented group. They played a lot better in the second half but early on we didn't pick up on some things."

While they are going to stick with Yates, for the time being, it feels like if you don't get your big playmakers in receivers Cody Chrest and Ife Adeyi going in this game, something might have to change for this offense.

"It's also a process of Jordan getting the ball out of his hand quicker. That's one of the things we've talked to him about. When you don't get rid of the ball, you put the offensive line in harm's way. We have the athletes on the perimeter that can make big plays," Keeler said.

Sam Houston's defense has played well in both games. The Kat's defense has forced just one sack this season with Ellison Hubbard and Toby Ndukwe having half a sack a piece.

The Kats' defensive line has also been slow to apply pressure. Junior defensive end Jevon Leon currently holds two quarterback hurries, which leads the team. Leon did miss some time against A&M with an injury and he has started both games. There are also four other members that have one QB hurry this season.

Sam Houston will also have to find a way to defend the pass in the flat. Opposing teams have averaged 321 yards this season through the air. Opposing teams are also 51-77 on passing attempts but have thrown three interceptions to the Kats' secondary.

"It's a team game and we punted a ball to the one-yard line and we couldn't get a stop," Keeler said. "Too many times, we gave up first downs when we couldn't protect the flat. Even though it was a 10-point game they held the ball on us. When we lose, we lose, and I think the defensive line has been playing well. At the same time, we gave up four quarterback sneaks on fourth down."

Sam Houston's defense may be playing with a leg down. Senior Markel Perry went down in the game against NAU and never returned. After the game, Keeler was hoping for it to be a pectoral strain but on Tuesday said it was a shoulder and could potentially miss the season, Perry was likely going to be a Kat that was redshirted this year as well.

"Markel was a guy we were probably going to redshirt," Keeler said. "We've lost a couple of guys due to injury but we have some depth."

GAME INFORMATION

Sam Houston vs. Texas A&M Commerce is set to kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday at Elliot T. Bowers Stadium and will serve as the Bearkats' family weekend. The game will be live streamed on the ESPN + platform.