Eric Schmid knew it was time for the offense to produce a touchdown, but he had no idea the pressure being placed on his shoulders facing a third down and 10 at his own 48-yard line trailing by three points with 4:30 remaining in regulation.
“It is time for Eric Schmid to make a play,” ESPN color commentator Tom Luginbill said to the national audience.
Schmid proceeded to make that play and one more to lead the Bearkats to a come-from-behind 24-20 victory over No. 7 North Dakota State in the FCS quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon.
"It felt like football (with the crowd today),” Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler said. “It was pretty cool, and we knew it would've been a packed house if CoVID wasn't involved. We fed off the crowd, their energy was great, and I was so impressed with how North Dakota State travels."
SHSU advances to host either No. 1 James Madison or No. 6 North Dakota next Saturday at a date and time to be determined in the FCS semifinals.
NDSU’s spring season ends before the FCS semifinals for the first time in the last decade and ensures a new team will earn the national title for the first time in four years.
On the critical third down play, Schmid found Ife Adeyi streaking down the left sideline for a 47-yard reception.
"There was no panic. Ife has such phenomenal speed. He may be the fastest player I've ever coached,” Keeler said. “If we can get him in a slot fade or in a go on the outside, we're going to take our shot. That was a big-time catch on that sideline. There wasn't a lot of room on the sideline."
"Ife told me if we needed a big play and he was on the outside, and we had a deep ball, that he was going to run by them,” Schmid said. “When we got that call on third and ten, I knew we needed a big play, and I trusted him. He ran by the dude and made a great catch."
Schmid then took it himself two plays later, scoring on a six-yard touchdown run to cap a win.
"It was an RPO,” Schmid said. “They gave us a good box, the offensive line blocked it well, and I just tried to get into the end zone."
"Everyone has hope in Eric; he’s amazing. We have confidence in him - he makes plays every week, and he stepped up and did it once again,” Bearkats receiver Noah Smith added.
The Bearkats defense came up huge once again, holding the Bison ground attack to 139 yards and stopped the final NDSU threat near the Kats red zone to secure the victory.
"We had to get late stops against Southeastern Louisiana, and it gives you so much confidence when you make those plays,” Keeler said. “It was the same thing last week. We had to make a play at the end of the game, and all those experiences led us to this experience to make that play."
"Our confidence is booming. We're playing good defense, and we want to keep our foot on the gas pedal and play great defense,” SHSU defensive back Tristin McCollum said. “During those late-game situations, we look at each other and remind ourselves to give relentless effort."
The Kats were not left without areas of concern after NDSU scored all 20 of its points on special teams plays.
"We knew they were very talented on special teams,” Keeler said. “We've played great special teams all year, but in our effort to keep some of our defensive bodies fresh with how physical North Dakota State is, we maybe put some guys out there that put us in harm's way.
"That's a coaching decision. That's on the head coach, and I take responsibility for that."
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