HUNTSVILLE, Texas |If nothing else, South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler staked his claim for the Walter Payton Award here Saturday.
Sam Houston State won a wild 54-42 shootout with the Coyotes in a second-round FCS football playoff game at Bowers Stadium, but Streveler was magnificent, passing for a school and FCS playoff record 520 yards and accounting for six touchdowns.
Streveler completed 28 of 43 for five touchdowns, breaking the Missouri Valley Football Conference record for passing in a single season with 4,134 yards. He also rushed for 51 yards, giving him 571 total yards, albeit in a losing cause.
The top two offenses in FCS combined for 1,345 yards while Streveler and Jeremiah Briscoe had a combined 1,025 yards passing and 10 touchdowns.
“It was a great football game – not an exceptionally great first half for us but give Sam Houston a lot of credit for that,” USD coach Bon Nielson said. “We knew it was really going to be a challenge to slow them down. We knew anytime we could get them off the field it was going to be a big stop. We also knew we were going to have to match points. And we did a lot better job of that in the second half.”
No. 5 Sam Houston State (11-1) raced to a 41-14 halftime lead and held off a furious Coyote rally, advancing to a quarterfinal at home against Kenesaw State.
South Dakota (8-5) scored three consecutive touchdowns in the third quarter and pulled within 41-35 on a 2-yard Streveler touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Tre Honshtein kicked a 28-yard field goal with 11:33 remaining to give the Bearkats a 44-35 lead, but the Coyotes answered with a 58-yard pass from Streveler to Alonge Brooks, making it 44-42. Brooks caught his only three passes of the game on the 75-yard drive, including a leaping grab for the touchdown.
Sam Houston State scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run by Corey Avery with 8:03 left. USD’s last legitimate chance to stay in the game ended when an attempted screen pass bounced off the back of an offensive lineman and into the hands of Sam Houston State’s Kahlil Welsh.
A few plays before that, Streveler connected with Brandt Van Roekel on a 58-yard pass to the Sam Houston State 15-yard line. Van Roekel, however, was called for a facemask penalty while stiff-arming a defender, pushing the Coyotes back 15 yards to the 30.
Sam Houston State quarterback Briscoe, last year’s winner of the Walter Payton Award, presented to the top player in FCS, passed for 505 yards and four touchdowns and the Bearkats racked up an FCS playoff record 705 total yards.
Davion Davis scored four times and Sam Houston State totaled 468 yards in the first half, but the Bearkats had just one first down and 28 yards on four drives in the third quarter.
USD’s Van Roekel amassed a school-record 234 receiving yards and the senior from Boyden, Iowa, tied a school mark with 11 catches. Van Roekel hauled in a 42-yard scoring strike to start the Coyotes’ rally.
“We came out a little timid,” said Van Roekel. “We weren’t making the plays we needed to make to be in the game. We came into halftime and we looked each other in the eyes and we said we weren’t giving up. Every one stepped up and gave it everything they had.”
Streveler then tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Shamar Jackson at the 7:24 mark of the third quarter. USD had a touchdown called back in the third quarter when the officials ruled that lineman Tanner Anderson aided running back Kai Henry on a 10-yard play into the end zone.
South Dakota closed a groundbreaking season under Nielson, who took the team from a 4-7 mark to the second round of the playoffs in just his second season in Vermillion.