Sam Houston rallies past South Dakota State for FCS championship

·4 min read

May 16—FRISCO, Texas — In a national title prize fight, Sam Houston landed the final, decisive punch.

The Bearkats scored on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left from quarterback Eric Schmid to receiver Ife Adeyi to put Sam Houston to clinch the national championship 23-21 Sunday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

It capped a 16-play drive that included two fourth-down conversions, allowing the Bearkats (10-0) to swipe a comeback victory from the Jackrabbits (8-2), who trailed 17-7 to start the fourth quarter.

That was before SDSU freshman running back Isaiah Davis powered a short-lived comeback. Davis had a 28-yard touchdown run early in the quarter to bring SDSU to within three points.

Later, after the teams swapped three-and-out possessions, Davis had a 85-yard touchdown run with less than 6 minutes left to give SDSU the lead at 21-17. It was his third of the game after his short touchdown plunge in the first quarter put SDSU up 7-0.

Adeyi's touchdown catch was followed by a missed extra point, giving SDSU some hopes of a potential game-winning field goal try. SDSU ran back-to-back hook-and-ladder pass plays, getting the ball over midfield but time ran out on the Jacks in the final seconds, allowing the Bearkats to celebrate theri first national title.

Davis finished with 178 rushing yards on 14 carries and had 305 all-purpose yards thanks to 114 yards on kickoff returns. Schmid, who was punished by the SDSU defensive line throughout the game, was 20-for-37 with 209 yards and three touchdowns. Sam Houston receiver Jequez Ezzard, who scored two touchdowns and had 10 catches for 108 yards, was the game's Most Outstanding Player.

SDSU's offensive plans were blown up on the first drive of the game, when quarterback Mark Gronowoski was injured, playing only the five plays. He put on a knee brace on his left knee after being evaluated by medical staff but did not return to the game. That sent Keaton Heide into the game for SDSU, who started five games in 2019 after J'Bore Gibbs was hurt at the midway point of the season.

All three quarterbacks are on the roster, but Gronowski won the starting job prior to the first game and Gibbs has since suffered a season-ending knee injury, leaving Heide, a 6-foot-3 sophomore with an ability to run the ball, in the primary backup role.

SDSU scored first, taking advantage of a mishandled snap by Sam Houston in its own territory that was recovered by Tolu Ogunrinde. Five plays later, after a 20-yard run by Isaiah Davis to get to the goal line, Davis plunged up the middle on the next play and scored from a yard out to put SDSU ahead 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

A Jacks' chance to go up by two scores slipped away moments later. Sam Houston mishandled a punt snap, giving SDSU the ball at the Bearkats' 19-yard line. SDSU moved the ball just two yards in three plays and then a 34-yard field goal attempt for kicker Cole Frahm was botched by a mishandled snap, keeping the score at 7-0.

An illegal block in the back negated a would-be game-tying punt return touchdown from Ezzard to close out the first quarter. After the two teams traded three-and-out possessions, Ezzard caught a pass at the line of scrimmage in front of his sideline, broke numerous SDSU tackles and weaved his way to the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown catch from Schmid to tie the game.

SDSU got a good return from Davis moments later, and SDSU ran a handful of plays before the game was halted due to lightning within an 8-mile area of the stadium. The delay lasted for 70 minutes, but the rain stopped after the delay, allowing the second half to be only affected by a muddy field.

As the second quartered winded down, Ezzard was again on the receiving end of a touchdown pass from Schmid, this time from 15 yards out to put Sam Houston up 14-7 before halftime.

Sam Houston added a 45-yard field goal late in the third quarter to give the Bearkats the 17-7 lead after three frames.

Scoring summary

First quarter

SDSU: Isaiah Davis 1 run (Cole Frahm kick), 7:33.

Second quarter

SH: Jequez Ezzard 35 pass from Eric Schmid (Seth Morgan kick), 11:16.

SH: Eqqard 15 pass from Schmid (Morgan kick), 1:21.

Third quarter

SH: Morgan 45 field goal, 0:37.

Fourth quarter

SDSU: Davis 28 run (Frahm kick), 13:12.

SDSU: Davis 85 run (Frahm kick), 5:41.

SH: Ife Adeyi 10 pass from Eric Schmid (kick missed), 0:16.