Last Modified: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 9:30 PM
The Battle of the Piney Woods inside a shiny dome was once again a success for the Southland Conference. Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin played in front of 26,185 at Houston’s Reliant Stadium to set a single-game Football Championship Subdivision attendance record in the state of Texas.
Those who showed up saw no lack of entertainment as the Bearkats held off the Lumberjacks, 51-43.
“It’s a bowl-game atmosphere,” said SFA coach J.C. Harper. “With the television, it’s making our brand of football bigger. I think it’s huge.”
The best players on both teams were able to showcase their stuff.
Bearkats quarterback Brian Bell threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more. SFA wide receiver Cordell Roberson was unstoppable with 14 catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns.
“Roberson is just a phenomenal player,” said Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz. “He has got to be a pro prospect.”
Surprisingly, the biggest play of the game might have been by a defensive player. With SFA driving in the second quarter, Bookie Sneed returned an interception 92 yards for a touchdown to give Sam Houston the lead it would not relinquish.
Both teams are 1-1 in conference.
• BACK TO REALITY: Southeastern Louisiana’s buzz from winning its first two conference games was harshly snuffed out by Football Bowl Subdivision Alabama-Birmingham in a 52-3 loss last week.
“We ran into a little bit of a buzz saw,” said SLU coach Ron Roberts. “UAB is a very talented team that played a rough schedule.”
The win was the first for the Blazers, who have played South Carolina and Ohio State.
“We started off with a pick-six and it never really got better from there,” Roberts said. “Their speed took us out of everything we wanted to do on offense and defensively they just ran by us quite a few times.”
SLU sits atop the Southland with a 2-0 league record, and will try to stay on top with a win over Northwestern State this weekend.
• EVERYWHERE MAN: Nicholls State linebacker Jordan Piper was everywhere on the field for the Colonels on Saturday, tying a school record with 23 tackles, including 14 solos, in a 34-14 loss at Central Arkansas.
The record was established by Rusty Rebowe against SLU in 1977.
• HISTORY LESSON: The four biggest favorites for the Southland title — Central Arkansas, McNeese, Sam Houston State and SFA — all have one conference loss. Only one team in league history, 2008 Texas State, has won a Southland title with more than one conference loss.