It doesn’t matter where Richard Sincere lines up on the field, the Sam Houston State sophomore will always pose a threat to whichever defense happens to be on the other side.
On Jan. 7, it will be North Dakota State’s turn to figure out Sincere and the Bearkats’ offense in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game in Frisco, Texas.
Sincere, the Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year, is listed on the Bearkats’ roster as a wide receiver. However, he was named to the league’s all-conference team as a halfback because he often lines up in the wildcat formation, taking a direct snap from center.
A former high school quarterback from Galveston Bell, Texas, Sincere has rushed 120 times for 965 yards and nine touchdowns, caught 25 passes for 449 yards and four scores and also passed for a touchdown.
“Once the coaches found out I had run some option in high school, they found a way to put stuff I already knew into our offense,” Sincere said. “It just went from there and took off into something massive.”
Sincere was playing just wide receiver when he arrived at SHSU, but head coach Willie Fritz knew he needed to utilize Sincere’s great speed to give the Bearkats an edge.
“We were trying to find some ways to get the ball in his hands because we weren’t throwing the ball much last year,” Fritz said. “Everybody tinkers with the wildcat offense that the Miami Dolphins did a few years back with Ronnie Brown. It allows us to get the ball in Richard’s hands.”
“It starts with the pistol formation,” sophomore running back Tim Flanders said. “We have a lot of motion and a lot of different personnel that we can come at you from any angle. And then we can move to the gun and do the exact same thing.”
The offensive wrinkles showcasing Sincere combined with Flanders’ single-season school records in rushing yards (1,560) and touchdowns (24) and quarterback Brian Bell’s efficient passing (165.6) gives defenses a lot to think about.
“You’ve got a fast guy at quarterback, you’ve got a fast guy at the dive, you have a guy you have the possibility of pitching it to run option plays,” Fritz said. “Richard has a good arm … we can throw it well if people try to pack the box on us, too. That’s kind of how we got into this offense. Richard has had some very good games for us and an outstanding season.”
“We have me in there to throw it around a little bit and run some option, and then Richard comes in and he is so fast … he’s a difference-maker,” Bell said. “I can be in there and make some plays, and then Richard can come in and blow them away.”
Need to Know
• The name Willie Fritz is starting to become synonymous with national championship programs. Sam Houston State’s head coach was a four-year starter at defensive back at Pittsburg State before graduating in 1983. The Gorillas claimed this year’s NCAA Division II football title. In his first head coaching job at Blinn College, Fritz turned a losing program into a two-time national champion at the junior college level. Now, he has guided Sam Houston State to the program’s first NCAA title game appearance.
• Sophomore quarterback Brian Bell hails from football family and his gridiron heritage is apparent as he has led the Bearkats to a 19-3 mark since becoming the starting quarterback in the third game of his freshman year.
Bell played for his father Mark at China Spring High School in Texas, following in his older brother Shawn’s footsteps, but shattering several of his records. Shawn played quarterback at Baylor (2002-06) and is now coaching Magnolia West H.S. in Texas.
“It was very beneficial to grow up as a coach’s son and boosted my football knowledge,” Bell said. “He gives me advice all the time, and whatever he is willing to tell me, I’m willing to take it. He’s more than my brother … he’s probably my best friend.”
Bell ranks second nationally with a 165.6 passing efficiency, and has thrown just five interceptions on the season. He has tossed 20 touchdowns, and run for six scores.
• It is not just the Bearkats’ offense that North Dakota State will be studying — their defense has wreaked havoc on opponents this season as well. The Bearkat defense has caused 40 turnovers (22 interceptions and 18 fumbles) resulting in 144 points (19 TDs, three field goals), and ranks second nationally in turnover ratio (+28). In an NCAA semifinal against Montana, the Bearkats picked off four passes and recovered a pair of fumbles en route to a 31-28 victory.
“We’re fast and we find a way to get to the ball,” Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year Darnell Taylor said. “We blitz a whole lot … probably more than any team in the country. That has helped thus far.”
Sam Houston State has won a school-record 16 consecutive contests dating back to last year’s Central Arkansas victory … A SHSU victory in the title game would be only the fourth time in NCAA FCS history that the champion completed the season unbeaten and untied. Marshall was the last team to accomplish the feat in 1996 … Sophomore cornerback Daxton Swanson ranks third nationally with a school-record eight interceptions this season, while the Bearkats have picked off a single-season record 22 passes … The national title game will be held in Frisco, Texas, just 200 miles north of Sam Houston State’s campus in Huntsville, Texas … If Richard Sincere runs for 35 or more yards against NDSU to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark, it will be the 28th time in FCS history that two teammates have eclipsed the plateau in the same season. Tim Flanders has run for 1,560 yards, including a school-record eight 100-yeard rushing games.
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