By the end of the first quarter, Sam Houston State led its FCS semifinal matchup with Montana by a 21-0 margin, and it appeared we were headed for a rout. The Grizzlies looked hapless and helpless as Sam Houston State scored at will, leading one to believe it was going to be a long night.
But as the second quarter began to wind down, Montana came to life, returning an interception for a touchdown and cutting the Bearkats lead to 14 at the break. After trailing by 21 for most of the half, the Grizzlies had life, if only a flicker of it.
The second half was a different story as Montana came roaring back, eventually cutting Sam Houston State's lead to three, 31-28, with just under 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter. But both offenses stalled down the stretch, with Sam Houston State clinging to its three-point lead while weathering the storm from Montana.
With two minutes to go and the game on the line, the Bearkats lined up to go for it on fourth and short near midfield. Instead of trying to draw Montana offside, Sam Houston State quickly snapped the ball, putting the game in running back Tim Flanders' hands. And the Bearkats were rewarded as Flanders picked up the first down and more, sliding down inbounds to keep the clock running.
With the first down in hand and Montana running out of timeouts, Flanders was able to ice the game, preserving Sam Houston State's win and securing the Bearkats a berth in the FCS Championship.
Flanders had a superb day, to say the least, rushing for a school-record 287 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. The Bearkats rushed for 371 yards on the night, averaging a whopping 7.7 yards per carry. Quarterback Jordan Johnson led the Grizzlies on the ground with 64 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
Sam Houston State stayed perfect on the season with the win, moving to 14-0 on the season. The Bearkats will face the winner of Saturday's semifinal matchup between Georgia Southern and North Dakota State.
The final score: Sam Houston State 31, Montana 28.