HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Ramon Jefferson rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns, Eric Schmid accounted for the game-winning score and defending national champion Sam Houston fended off Incarnate Word 49-42 with a last-gasp goal-line tackle in the second round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday.
The top-seeded, top-ranked Bearkats (11-0) will entertain eighth-seeded and No. 9-ranked Montana State (10-2) in the quarterfinals. The NCAA Selection Committee was to determine the date and time Saturday night.
Incarnate Word (10-3), playing its first football game in December, gave the defending national champions all they could handle, with quarterback Cameron Ward throwing for 481 yards and five touchdowns — two in the fourth quarter. Ward led the Cardinals 71 yards on their final possession, charging toward the goal line on a fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line and landing just short when he was tackled and ruled down at the 1 before he was able to stretch the ball past the line.
Sam Houston was able to kneel and run out the final eight seconds.
Jefferson broke free for a 48-yard touchdown run, breaking a shoestring tackle, early in the second quarter, sparking a run of 21 unanswered points by the Bearkats.
The Cardinals rallied for a 35-34 lead when Darion Chaffin pulled in a 48-yard pass from Ward in the first minute of the fourth quarter, sparking a see-saw finish.
Sam Houston, facing a fourth-and-goal was awarded a penalty first down when UIW jumped offsides and Jefferson plowed through on the next snap. The Bearkats went for the 2-point conversion and Noah Smith seeing UIW waiting for him on the right side, reversed field and just made the pylon on the left front edge of the end zone to make it a seven-point lead, 42-35 with 8:13 to play.
But UIW's Ward hooked up with Trevor Begue on a 62-yard touchdown pass and the Cardinals evened the score at 42 just 23 seconds later.
Sam Houston ground out a nearly six-minute drive covering 75 yards in 12 plays with Schmid scoring on a 3-yard run for a 49-42 lead.
Sam Houston is seeking to become the fifth school since the advent of the FCS to win consecutive national titles, joining North Dakota State, Appalachian State, Youngstown State and Georgia Southern.
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