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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Tread lightly, Bearkats nearby

Photos by Cameron Johnson

The maroon team following a kickoff during the Maroon & White Spring Game at Kyle Field on April 9, 2022.

A matchup that many see as an easy win for the No. 6 ranked team in the country could result in a major headache against a mid-major team transitioning from the Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS, to the Football Bowl Subdivision, or the FBS. 

On Sept. 3, No. 6 Texas A&M football will face the first obstacle of many on its journey to its first National Championship in 83 years. The Aggies’ first challenge: a team who has won 22 of its last 23 games.

Sam Houston State won its first FCS National Championship during the 2020-21 season,  an unusual year due to the impact of COVID-19 protocols. 

The Bearkats competed in six Southland Conference games from Feb. 27 to April 17, 2021, before kicking off the FCS playoffs against Monmouth University on April 24, 2021. The season continued until the start of the summer on May 16, 2021, when they defeated South Dakota State 23-21 to put the cherry on top of a perfect yet unusual season.

After playing a whole college football season in the spring, Sam Houston had only three months before they strapped on the pads to kick off the 2021-2022 season on Sept. 2. The short offseason did not put even the slightest dent into their armor as they went on to win 11 games before losing devastatingly to Montana State 42-19 in the FCS Quarterfinals. 

Now, Sam Houston is in the middle of a transition from the FCS to the FBS and with that comes a few perks. Being in the FCS, they were only allowed to have 53 scholarship players on the roster. Now, they have 75 players on scholarship with the number set to increase to 85 in the 2023 season. 

With that being said, this isn’t a normal cake-walk matchup as seen at the beginning of most seasons. 

“What we’re looking to take away from this game is being able to compete at this level,” Sam Houston senior defensive lineman Markel Perry said. “We can compete at the same level as anyone else in the FBS. Coming from the FCS, a lot of people underestimate our abilities. Being able to go and play against A&M is going to help us prove that, even though we know how talented they are, we are going to come out here and compete, swarm and make plays.”

The Bearkats have 19 transfers on its current roster, seven of them being from Power Five conferences and one of them looking to make an immediate impact in their first game at Kyle Field.

After playing four seasons at the University of Texas, graduate defensive back B.J. Foster entered the transfer portal looking for a fresh start, finding it in his new home in Huntsville.

“I tell the younger players, ‘You want to watch someone in practice, watch B.J. [Foster],’” Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler said. “He is out there every single snap. He knows what the motion was, knows what the play was and knows what the adjustment was … he’s amazing.”

Foster recorded 167 total tackles, five interceptions and four sacks in his career for the Longhorns and will look to be an agitator to the Aggie offense come game time. 

Similar to A&M, Sam Houston had a quarterback competition of its own during the offseason, however, this one has yet to be determined. The two quarterbacks that are battling for the starting job in Huntsville are both transfers, one with a little more experience in the orange and white than the other.

Junior quarterback Keegan Shoemaker transferred from Lafayette University where he completed 60% of his passes during the 2019 season, threw for 2,565 yards and threw the same amount of touchdown passes as he did interceptions with 14.

As for  redshirt sophomore Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Yates, he is coming out the 2021 season with a completion rate of 59.5%, 908 yards thrown and six total touchdowns. 

“I’m not very interested in playing two quarterbacks,” Keeler said. “I don’t want them looking over their shoulder at the end of each play. It’s been a great battle back and forth, and I think our guys are comfortable with either one. We’ll figure it out by 11:05 [a.m.] Saturday.”

The Bearkats have been in the film room religiously, and from the time spent studying the Aggies’ secondary, the receiver group has been able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the maroon and white defensive backs, Sam Houston graduate receiver Cody Chrest said. 

“In terms of strengths, I would say No. 27 [Antonio Johnson] is a strength in terms of their secondary,” Chrest said. “But, we’re expecting to get a lot of man coverage … in terms of man coverage, it’s good versus good, and like I said, we’re excited about it, and we think we can win those battles.”

On the opposite sidelines, A&M now has its starting quarterback in redshirt sophomore Haynes King and depth at each position. A game where a solid SEC powerhouse has a chance to work out a few kinks against a mid-major school. So, a win alone won’t suffice for A&M coach Jimbo Fisher’s appetite.

“We need to execute,” Fisher said. “Being able to put your substitutions, not have self-inflicted wounds, play very disciplined and play the game very physical[ly]. You’re playing a very good football team so you better be able to play this way.”

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