HOUSTON — The miracle Bearkats did it again.
With a 10-game winning streak on the line in the 96th meeting of the Battle of the Piney Woods, Keegan Shoemaker led another come-from-behind victory as Sam Houston (2-3) rallied to stun Stephen F. Austin (2-3) 17-16 at NRG Stadium on Saturday.
Last year, Shoemaker filled in for injured starting quarterback Eric Schmid and led the game-winning drive in a 21-20 win. This time was just as sweet for Sam Houston.
Trailing 16-10 for most of the second half, the defense came up with a key stop to put the ball back into the hands of the offense. They delivered in the storied rivalry that stops with the Bearkats moving to Conference USA next season.
Sam Houston marched down to the SFA 3-yard line thanks to a 15-yard reception by wideout Cody Chrest, a 20-yard by run by Shoemaker and a 13-yard gain by running back Dezmon Jackson. The Lumberjacks appeared to seal the victory on an incomplete pass on fourth and goal but one of the defensive linemen was offsides to give Sam Houston new life.
The offensive line opened a hole and Jackson walked into the end zone from a yard out. Seth Morgan split the uprights on the extra point to put Sam Houston on top 17-16 with 35 seconds left in the game.
The Bearkats closed it out with an interception by Trey Smith on a last-ditch deep throw downfield as the crowd exploded in cheers and the players stormed the field.
Things looked bleak early on, but one big play changed that.
SFA jumped out to a 13-0 lead and got the ball back with just under two minutes to go. Sam Houston got a big stop on third down to force a punt.
Donovan Adkins basically broke through the line untouched and blocked the kick. He recovered the ball and stumbled his way to the 7-yard line. On the next play, Shoemaker hit Noah Smith for a touchdown and just like that it was 13-7.
Both teams threatened to find the end zone to begin the second half, and both drives ended in the red zone. The Lumberjacks kicked a 35-yard field goal and Morgan answered from 21 yards out to make it 16-10.
Sam Houston had another drive in the third quarter that made it inside the SFA 10. Once again, the Lumberjacks held but Morgan missed a 33-yard field goal with just over two minutes to go in the period.
The Bearkats had two promising drives in the first quarter but nothing to show for it.
Jackson began the game with a 16-yard run, and Shoemaker found Noah Smith for 20 yards to move into SFA territory. The drive stalled at the 34-yard line and Sam Houston turned it over on downs.
The Lumberjacks answered with a field goal to go up 3-0, and the Kats went on the march again thanks to a roughing the kicker call on a punt attempt.
Jackson gained 16 more yards on first down, and Ife Adeyi hauled in a 21-yard pass from Shoemaker to get to the SFA 34. Shoemaker then used his legs to pick up 18 more yards, but he threw an interception that led to an 85-yard touchdown pass for the Jacks.