BEAUMONT - Sam Houston State showed why it's the No. 5 ranked team in the nation Saturday at Provost Umphrey Stadium as the Bearkats rode leading rusher Tim Flanders to a 56-7 Southland Conference football victory over Lamar University.
Flanders, the reigning Southland Conference Player of the Year, ran for 131 yards and scored four touchdowns as the Bearkats improved to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play. Lamar, which will play at Stephen F. Austin next Saturday, fell to 3-6 on the season and 0-4 in league play.
Lamar's one score came on an 89-yard kickoff return by Kevin Johnson with 4:26 to play in the third quarter. Johnson, who is now just one touchdown away from the Lamar single-season record, scored for the 12th time this season as he took the kick, broke to his right and then raced down the sideline for the score.
Sam Houston put up 378 yards rushing on the day as the Bearkats finished with 508 yards of total offense. The top ranked rush defense in the conference limited Lamar to just 85 rushing yards and 181 total yards in the game.
Flanders scored from seven yards out with 2:04 left in the first quarter to open the scoring. Flanders' second score would come less than five minutes later as the Bearkats took advantage of a DePauldrick Garrett fumble.
Garrett, who finished with just 21 yards on 10 carries, lost the ball at his own 15-yard line. The Bearkats' J.T. Cleveland picked it up and ran it down to the Lamar one before being tackled by Lamar quarterback Caleb Berry. Flanders would score from a yard out to give SHSU a 14-0 lead with 12:33 to play in the first half.
The Bearkats' final score of the first half also came after a Garrett fumble as he was hit by Jeremy Jackson near midfield following a 10-yard reception. Sam Houston's Kenneth Jenkins would recover and return the ball to the Lamar 48-yard line.
On first down, quarterback Brian Bell hooked up with receiver Trey Diller for a 48-yard touchdown to give the Bearkats the 21-0 lead they would take into intermission. Bell finished 9-of-13 on the day for just 84 yards, but added 44 yards rushing.
"Hats off to Sam Houston, they played well, and they were just a better football team than us today," said LU head coach Ray Woodard. "We felt frustrated at halftime. They had a one-yard drive and a one-play drive. Really the only drive they had was when we went for it on fourth down and didn't get it, and then they went for it on fourth and did get it. We let the game get away from us. It's tough to be down 21-0 to a team that is that good, and then they really turned it on in the third quarter."
"We had a chance there for awhile, and we just can't do that to ourselves. They took advantage of it, and they're a championship-type football team. They have that type of attitude, so when they get up like that, they know how to finish a ballgame."
Flanders struck for a pair of scores right at the start of the second half to lead the Bearkats to a 21-point third quarter. The junior scored from 59 yards out with 13:54 to play in the quarter to cap a three-play, 75-yard drive.
Following a Lamar punt, the Bearkats would begin their second drive of the half from the Lamar 49-yard line. After four straight runs took it down to the Lamar 10-yard line, Flanders scored his final touchdown of the game to give the Bearkats a 35-0 lead.
Keshawn Hill, who finished with 89 yards rushing on seven carries, added a score with 4:38 to play in the third quarter to give the Bearkats a 42-0 lead. Hill ran it in from six yards out to complete a nine-play, 67 yard drive.
It would be on the ensuing kickoff that Lamar would finally get into the end zone. Johnson's score made it 42-7 with just under four and a half minutes to play in the third quarter.
The Bearkats would tack on a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns for the final margin. Richard Sincere hit Brandon Wilkerson from 42 yards out for a score, and Cody Morgan scored from three yards out for the final touchdown of the contest.
Jermaine Longino and Chad Allen each registered eight tackles to lead Lamar's defensive effort. Junior Defensive end Jesse Dickson, who has missed the last two games with an injury, returned to record five tackles, including one for loss.
The game also saw the return of LU quarterback Ryan Mossakowski, who finished 0-of-2 in relief of Berry. The junior transfer has missed three straight games after starting the first five games of the year. Berry finished 12-of-24 on the day for 96 yards and one interception.
Jesse Beauchamp led all players with 10 total tackles. Four Bearkats registered sacks in the game.