Monday, November 28, 2011
Sam Houston excited as it prepares for SBU
The eyes of Huntsville, Texas, will be on top-ranked Sam Houston (11-0) when the hometown Bearkats host Stony Brook (9-3) in an FCS second-round playoff game Saturday. The state is steeped in the tradition of major college football, but this community of 40,000 has plenty of allegiance for the local team.
"We're 50 miles away from Texas A&M, Texas is only a couple of hours away, Houston is having a heck of a season down the road about an hour away," said Dave Pattison, associate athletic director for external relations. "It's just as passionate here, just on a smaller scale."
Bowers Stadium holds 12,500. That was too small for Sam Houston's rivalry with Stephen F. Austin, so the game was moved to Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL Houston Texans, and 25,000 attended. Students usually get in for free during the regular season, but the NCAA mandates charging for playoff games, so this crowd might be less than a sellout.
"We have our loyal fans," said Jason Chandler, assistant athletic director for corporate partnerships and development. "Half of the population is tied to the Department of Criminal Justice. We have 10 prisons in town; they employ half the town. People are buying the T-shirts that say 'Undefeated.' Everybody's real excited. We're going around town asking businesses to put up on their marquee 'No. 1 seed, all in December 3.' "
Football competes for attention with Sam Houston's Division I basketball team. But it is, first and foremost, a football state, and this matchup is intriguing. "Most people here have not heard of Stony Brook before," Chandler said. "I think a lot of people have looked at the stats and are impressed with their offensive output and winning streak of nine games. It makes for an interesting matchup because you have the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses playing against each other."
Sam Houston will be favored, but coach Willie Fritz said overconfidence will not be a problem, adding: "We got up all over in our office: 'Prove it every week.' We don't look past that.''
Fritz has some knowledge of Stony Brook because his father used to be Buffalo's athletic director. "Both SUNY schools," he said.
Fritz is working hard to learn about the Seawolves. "Stony Brook's an awful lot like us: win by running the football. You don't find many teams that have two guys who rushed for over a thousand yards. This is going to be a big challenge for us. This is going to be the best running team that we faced.''