Scores
NCAA DIVISION I FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP - SEMIFINAL

Final

Montana 28

(11-3, 3-3 away)

Sam Houston 31

(14-0, 9-0 home)

Coverage: ESPN

8:00 PM ET, December 16, 2011

Bowers Stadium, Huntsville, TX

1 2 3 4 T
MONT 0 14 7 728
SHSU 21 7 3 031

Top Performers

Passing: J. Johnson (MONT) - 277 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: T. Flanders (SHSU) - 26 CAR, 287 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: J. Sambrano (MONT) - 3 REC, 72 YDS, 1 TD

Tim Flanders runs Sam Houston State past Montana in FCS semifinal

Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- Sam Houston State answered critics who claimed the Bearkats were too young, too inexperienced and simply not good enough to be considered among the best in the nation.

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 over 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.

"I don't think it's really set in yet," Bearkats quarterback Brian Bell said. "That's what we dreamed of since day one, going to the national championship. It's the best feeling in the world.

"This one is for everybody who is involved in this program -- alumni, coaches, professors, classmates. If you've got something to do with Sam Houston, this one was for you. This one was for everybody."

The Bearkats roared out of the gate with 21 quick points in the opening quarter. Bell finished Sam Houston State's first series with an 11-yard touchdown run.

On the Bearkats' next play from scrimmage, Flanders took the handoff on a draw, broke three tackles and sprinted past would-be tacklers for a 69-yard score.

Just before the end of the quarter, Bell found wide receiver Grant Merritt for a 20-yard touchdown to extend the Bearkats lead to 21-0.

Sam Houston State led 28-7 late in the second quarter, when the Grizzlies' defense turned momentum. With the Bearkats driving for another score, linebacker Caleb McSurdy deflected a pass from Bell and returned it all the way for a 61-yard touchdown to pull Montana back to within 28-14.

Following a 25-yard field goal by Bearkats kicker Craig Alaniz in the third quarter, Montana began chipping away at the deficit.

Jordan Canada finished a 10-play, 61-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 31-21, and quarterback Jordan Johnson's 54-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter drew the Grizzlies within three.

The Grizzlies were moving again, until Johnson threw incomplete on a third-and-11 with about six minutes left, forcing a Montana punt.

"I thought we would (get the ball back), but you can't leave it up to the defense," Johnson said. "It was my fault for underthrowing the ball. When plays are there to be made, you have to make them. I didn't do that."

And Sam Houston State never gave it back. Flanders secured the win with a 22-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Bearkats' 47 near the 2-minute mark.

"My thought was that we just have to keep getting first downs. That was the main thing," Flanders said. "On first-and-10, we just had to get at least 3 or 4 yards to keep the ball moving forward. Everything just took care of itself."

Flanders broke McNeil Moore's single-game school rushing record (286 yards) set in 1951 against Lamar.

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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Team Stat Comparison

 
MONT
SHSU
1st Downs2020
Total Yards380496
Passing277113
Rushing103383
Penalties2-1510-89
3rd Down Conversions10-155-13
4th Down Conversions0-12-2
Turnovers31
Possession23:3336:27

Passing Leaders

MontanaC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Johnson21/332778.411
Sam Houston StateC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Bell10/141138.121

Rushing Leaders

MontanaCARYDSAVGTDLG
Johnson11645.8154
Canada7131.915
Sam Houston StateCARYDSAVGTDLG
Flanders2628711.0169
Sincere9495.4036

Receiving Leaders

MontanaRECYDSAVGTDLG
Sambrano37224.0134
Carver24422.0039
Sam Houston StateRECYDSAVGTDLG
Williams33612.0027
Diller23316.5127

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERMONTSHSU
TD10:36Brian Bell 11 Yd Run (Craig Alaniz Kick) 07
TD06:00Tim Flanders 69 Yd Run (Craig Alaniz Kick) 014
TD01:42Grant Merritt 20 Yd Pass From Brian Bell (Craig Alaniz Kick) 021
SECOND QUARTERMONTSHSU
TD06:27Jabin Sambrano 30 Yd Pass From Jordan Johnson (Brody Mcknight Kick) 721
TD02:15Trey Diller 27 Yd Pass From Brian Bell (Craig Alaniz Kick) 728
TD01:00Caleb McSurdy 61 Yd Interception Return (Brody Mcknight Kick) 1428
THIRD QUARTERMONTSHSU
FG06:58Craig Alaniz 25 Yd 1431
TD03:36Jordan Canada 3 Yd Run (Brody Mcknight Kick) 2131
FOURTH QUARTERMONTSHSU
TD11:26Jordan Johnson 54 Yd Run (Brody Mcknight Kick) 2831