HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Tim Flanders rushed for a school-record 287 yards and a touchdown and Sam Houston State advanced to its first national championship game with a 31-28 win against Montana in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinal on Friday night.
The Bearkats (14-0) will play the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between North Dakota State and Georgia Southern in the FCS title game on Jan. 7.
Sam Houston State, the top scoring team in FCS at 39.8 points per game, jumped to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Quarterback Brian Bell finished the Bearkats’ first series with an 11-yard touchdown run, and Flanders, a sophomore, raced 69 yards for another score less than five minutes later.
Bell and Flanders both had first-down runs on Sam Houston’s next drive, and Bell found Grant Merritt for a 20-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0.
Bell finished 10 of 14 for 113 yards. He threw a 28-yard TD pass to Trey Diller in the second quarter to put the Bearkats up 28-7. With time winding down in the first half, Montana’s Caleb McSurdy intercepted a Bell pass and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown.
Craig Alaniz kicked a 25-yard field goal for the Bearkats in the third quarter, but Montana’s Jordan Canada finished a 10-play, 61-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 31-21.
Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson’s 54-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter drew the Grizzlies within three points.
Sam Houston State got the ball back with 6 minutes left and held onto it. Flanders secured the win with a 22-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Bearkats’ 47 near the 2-minute mark.
The Bearkats finished with 496 yards and their top-ranked rushing defense held Montana to 103 yards on the ground. Johnson completed 21 of 33 passes for 277 yards for the Grizzlies (11-3), who were making their 11th trip to the FCS semifinals.
Sam Houston State only played in the semifinals once previously, and lost to Montana in 2004.
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