HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Sam Houston State has been to the FCS championship game twice and reached the semifinals one other time in the last four years without winning the title.
After defeating Colgate Saturday, the Bearkats return to the semifinals looking for that elusive championship.
Jeremiah Briscoe threw for 358 yards and four touchdowns to lead Sam Houston State to a 48-21 win over Colgate in the FCS quarterfinals.
Sam Houston (11-3) faces top-seeded Jacksonville State in the semifinals.
"There is only thing missing on our resume, and we all know that," Sam Houston State coach K.C. Keeler said. "That's to be national champions. The goal of this program is to say we are the single best FCS program in the country.
"Our guys know not get ahead of ourselves, but we also know the reason we came here is to win a national championship. We are excited. We are in the final four and a chance to play another day."
Briscoe, who replaced Jared Johnson in each of the last two playoff games, was 28 of 42 in his second start of the season — first since a 59-7 win over Incarnate Word on Oct. 10 — and had touchdown passes of 26, 8 and 18 yards in the first half as Sam Houston jumped out to a 28-7 lead with less than six minutes remaining in the opening half. It was 31-14 at halftime.
Keeler said he considered Briscoe and Johnson co-starters as the two quarterbacks typically shared snaps in practice and in games throughout the season.
This week, Briscoe took all the snaps in practice as Johnson was "banged up," Keeler said.
"I was excited, but to me, there was no difference between this game and any other," Briscoe said. "For us offensively, it really didn't matter. We can roll and do all these different things. I think that is the blessing for us. How do you want us to beat you? We are going to take what you give us."
Corey Avery had 25 rushes for 197 yards and one touchdown — a 1-yard score that started the scoring three minutes into the game. Yedidiah Louis caught nine passes for 119 yards and a touchdown, and Ladarius Brown caught five passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns for the Bearkats, which had 653 yards of offense and a school-record 37 first downs, compared to Colgate's 327 yards and 19 first downs.
"We knew coming into this game, we were going to have the opportunity to get our guys in space," Briscoe said. "I think we did a good job of it. It really gave us the opportunity to attack them."
Jake Melville was 12 of 25 for 142 yards and a touchdown and rushed 13 times for 35 yards and a score to lead the Raiders (9-5), who were in the quarterfinals for the first time since losing in the championship game in 2003.
"We struggled getting movement, and they made plays all over the field," Melville said. "It was tough. They brought us some problems, and once we figured it out, it was too late."
Demetrius Russell had 15 carries for 77 yards, and James Holland added a rushing touchdown.
"We knew offensively they were going to present us struggles, and they did," Colgate coach Dan Hunt said. "I don't think we did enough defensively. Early in the game, we stopped the run, and they hurt us with the bubble screens."
Briscoe found Davion Davis for a 26-yard touchdown pass with eight minutes to go in the opening quarter for a 14-0 lead. Davis broke one tackle and tight-roped the sidelines for 20 yards for the score.
James Holland cut the lead in half, capping a 16-play, 80-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to start the second quarter.
Sam Houston responded with a 10-play, 69-yard drive, capped by a Briscoe 8-yard TD pass to Louis with just under nine minutes left in the second quarter to up the lead back to 14.
Following a P.J. Hall punt block that set the Bearkats up at the Colgate 47, Sam Houston took five plays to extend the lead to 28-7 with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Briscoe to Brown with 5:57 remaining in the first half.
Melville cut the lead to 28-14 on a 31-yard touchdown pass to Alex Greenwalt with 48 seconds left in the half, but that would be as close as the Raiders would get the rest of the way. Tre Honstein hit field goals on both sides of halftime and Briscoe found Gerald Thomas in the back of the end zone midway through the third quarter to make it 41-14.
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