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BYU defeats Sam Houston 14-0 in season opener

Aidan Robbins
Posted at 5:56 PM, Sep 03, 2023

PROVO, Utah (AP) — Kedon Slovis threw for 145 yards and ran for a pair of touchdowns to lead BYU to a 14-0 victory over Sam Houston on Saturday night.

LJ Martin ran for 91 yards on 16 carries in his BYU debut. The Cougars (1-0) totaled 257 yards and averaged 3.8 yards per play in Slovis’ first game leading the offense after transferring from Pittsburgh during the offseason.

Jakob Robinson led a stout BYU defense with two interceptions. The Cougars shut out an opponent for the first time since defeating Savannah State 64-0 in 2014 and blanked an FBS opponent for the first time since beating Hawaii 47-0 in 2012.

“I’m really happy with what our defense did,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “I thought they tackled well. I thought they played assignment sound.”

Keegan Shoemaker threw for 147 yards and tallied three interceptions for Sam Houston. The Bearkats (0-1) totaled 185 yards and 11 first downs in their FBS debut.

BYU marched 50 yards in eight plays on its opening drive, taking a 7-0 lead on a 6-yard run from Slovis. The Cougars couldn’t do much right on offense through the rest of the first half. They totaled just 66 yards their final six drives before halftime. Penalties and an inability to establish the run game were the biggest culprits in the lack of production.

Sam Houston could not take advantage. The Bearkats averaged just 2.9 yards per play in the first half and mirrored BYU’s struggles with running the ball.

“It just seemed that the game was moving a little bit too fast for us,” Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler said. “I thought their crowd noise was hampering us a little bit.”

Still, Sam Houston had multiple chances to tie the game in the third quarter, but mistakes kept the Bearkats off the scoreboard.

A failed fake punt from Ryan Rehkow gave the Bearkats the ball at the BYU 20. Robinson snagged the first of his two third-quarter interceptions in the end zone to keep Sam Houston off the board. Dakerric Hobbs returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for a touchdown later in the quarter, but an offsides penalty negated his score.

BYU converted a fourth down on the drive and eventually Slovis punched it in from a yard out on the first play of the fourth quarter to extend the Cougars’ lead to 14-0.

An inability to finish more drives did not sit well with Slovis or his teammates.

“I have higher expectations for myself,” Slovis said. “I have higher expectations for the offense. Really everybody, I feel like, felt that way after the game.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Sam Houston: Mediocre offense and ill-timed mistakes undermined a strong defensive performance for the Bearkats. Sam Houston made only a handful of big plays and never consistently moved the chains.

BYU: The Cougars showed significant improvement on defense from last season, and it rescued an inept offense. BYU allowed Sam Houston to cross midfield once before halftime and did not allow a third down conversion until midway through the third quarter.

DYNAMIC DEBUT

Martin made a case to be BYU’s featured running back after only one game. His 91 yards were the most for a true freshman since Jamaal Williams ran for 104 yards against Idaho in 2012. Martin also had 16 carries, the most for a true freshman since Williams had 19 against New Mexico State in 2012.

BYU leaned heavily on Martin’s running ability in the second half. He got his first career carry early in the second half and had the bulk of the carries during the fourth quarter.

“I thought he played much more mature than a true freshman,” Sitake said.

PUNT PARTY

Sam Houston and BYU combined for 19 punts over 28 drives. The Cougars had an edge thanks to Rehkow. He averaged 53.2 yards on nine punts, with a long of 65 yards, and pinned four punts inside the 20.

UP NEXT

Sam Houston plays Air Force at NRG Stadium in Houston.

BYU hosts Southern Utah on Saturday.