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them. Instead, Sergio

  • March 17, 2020 10:26 PM EDT

    (STATS) -- The pressure of the last two games cant compare to what Sam Houston State now faces. Junior Fernandez . This is the one where its time to prove the doubters wrong.And for the scoreboard operator to be extremely busy.In a clash of the countrys highest-scoring offenses, the Bearkats are the underdogs despite being atop the STATS Top 25 mainly because they must head into a chilly, unfriendly environment Friday night to face James Madison in the FCS quarterfinals.Itll be cold, itll be dark, itll be perfect, Dukes coach Mike Houston said.Sam Houston State (12-0) has long been No. 1 in the polls, steamrolling every opponent during a regular season it capped with a 59-23 rout of Central Arkansas in a de facto Southland Conference title game. Yet, a mostly unimpressive schedule led to only a No. 5 seed for the playoffs, and maybe the selection committee felt somewhat justified after the Bearkats narrowly escaped with a 41-36 win over Chattanooga to open the playoffs.Unlike those last two wins, the Bearkats now wont have the luxury of playing at home in the warmth of Huntsville, Texas. Besides having to go on the road because James Madison (11-1) is the higher seed at No. 4, temperature at kickoff in Harrisonburg, Virginia, should be in the 20s for a prime-time game being played in front of a national TV audience on ESPN2.Its also a big step up competition-wise. The Dukes went 9-0 in CAA Football -- a tougher conference than the Southland -- and suffered their only loss on the road to FBS foe North Carolina.Plus, the Bearkats havent seen an offense that can be anywhere near as potent as theirs -- until now.This is probably without doubt the most in terms of looking in the mirror, said Sam Houston States K.C. Keeler, the Eddie Robinson Award winner as the STATS FCS Coach of the Year. This is gonna be a team we think were playing our equal.Keelers squad leads all of college football with 53.1 points per game, and the only team within five points of that average is the Dukes at 48.3. The over/under for the game is an eye-opening 84 1/2.Sam Houston State has the bigger name at quarterback in Jeremiah Briscoe, a favorite to win the Walter Payton Award after setting an FCS single-season record with 57 touchdown passes. The junior has thrown for 4,459 yards for a Bearkats offense that leads the nation with 570.4 yards per game.He has a very quick release, he has very good accuracy and he has a very, very strong arm, Houston said. I mean, that ball gets there in a hurry. So you get a guy like that surrounded with the weapons that they have, thats why they put up almost arcade-like numbers.The Dukes have a signal-caller who has become nearly as dangerous in Bryan Schor.In his last four full games -- he missed 1 1/2 games last month with a shoulder injury -- Schor has put up Briscoe-like numbers with 17 touchdown passes and one interception while averaging 307 yards through the air. Plus, Schor is more of a dual threat with 522 yards and nine TDs on the ground this season.He and Briscoe are the two best quarterbacks in the country probably, Keeler said. His accuracy is uncanny. His ability to throw the ball away and get himself out of trouble.... Obviously, I think I have the best quarterback in the country, but (Schor) might be a close No. 2. And Im biased because I live with our kid every day.It was actually Schor who was statistically better last week, going 30 of 37 for 371 yards and five TDs as James Madison totaled 567 yards in a 55-22 win over New Hampshire. Briscoe matched him with five TD passes and threw for 363 yards, but he completed just 20 of 40 passes and the Bearkats were held to a season-low 421 yards.Briscoe was sacked six times, two fewer than the number of times he was dropped during the entire regular season.Its that kind of physicality that Houston feels will be a deciding factor.I firmly believe that you get in these ballgames, middle of December, cold weather, a lot of stakes on the line, if you have a team that has that kind of identity, you got a shot, he said. I expect our guys to go out and play with a lot of heart and intensity Friday night, and I expect it to be a very physical ballgame. Harrison Bader .Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have placed centre Cody Hodgson on injured reserve and recalled two players from their AHL affiliate in Rochester. Rangel Ravelo . As he recorded his 23rd and 24th points of the evening, a segment of the sellout Air Canada Centre crowd expressed their appreciation for the Raptors point guard with a smattering of MVP chants. . Barcelona also left injured defenders Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba out of its squad for the trip to Glasgow. That means that Marc Bartra will probably start again in the centre of the defence alongside Gerard Pique. SAN FRANCISCO -- The up-and-down Giants are going down to the wire in a bid to keep their even-year magic going.With three games left, manager Bruce Bochys ballclub is sandwiched between the Mets and Cardinals in the race for the two NL wild-card spots with two games separating the three teams.Its not exactly how Bochy envisioned it, not after the Giants went into the All-Star break with the best record in the majors. Given the alternative, however, San Franciscos skipper certainly isnt complaining.We certainly wish we were in a better position but you dont stop fighting, Bochy said following San Franciscos 7-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday night. It is what it is as far as our situation that we created. We know that.The Giants -- who won the World Series in 2010, 12 and 14 -- are one game behind the idle Mets and one game ahead of St. Louis. The Cardinals beat Cincinnati on Thursday.San Francisco hosts the Los Angeles Dodgers beginning Friday, the Cardinals play Pittsburgh at home and the Mets close out the regular season in Philadelphia.I dont know whats going to happen but theyll keep fighting and well see what happens, Bochy said.Johnny Cueto pitched seven uneven innings for his 18th win to help set up the wild race to the finish.Cueto (18-5) overcame a shaky start in his first appearance since being sidelined more than a week with a groin strain. The All-Star right-hander matched his season high of 11 strikeouts, allowed two runs, nine hits and walked one to beat the Colorado for the third time this season.After we took the lead I just got focused on what I needed to do, Cueto said through an interpreter, adding that hes open to pitching in relief against the Dodgers if needed. Im ready. The last game is on Sunday and if they give me the ball Ill take (it).Conor Gillaspie, Angel Pagan and Brandon Crawford had two hits apiece to help the Giants bounce back after getting shut out a night earlier.Nolan Arenado had two hits and ann RBI for Colorado, which was eliminated from playoff contention over the weekend and has dropped eight of 10. Enos Slaughter. (Cueto) found his groove and he was doing his thing, Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. Once he gets rolling hes one of those top-of-the-rotation guys that can be tough to get to.On a night when St. Louis rallied to win on a walkoff hit in the ninth, San Francisco staged its own comeback.Arenado hit an RBI double in the first and scored on David Dahls triple to put the Rockies up 2-0.The Giants tied it with two runs in the fourth, then went ahead in the sixth with help from Colorados defense. The Rockies committed two errors, including a wild throw by third baseman Arenado on Cuetos one-out bunt single that allowed two runs to score.Colorado starter Jon Gray (10-10) allowed five runs over 5 1/3 innings and left shortly after he appeared to get hit in the right ankle by Crawfords line drive in the sixth.It hurt pretty bad but Ill be all right. Nothing serious, Gray said.TAKING NO CHANCESBochy used four relievers to record the final six outs. One-time closer Santiago Casilla was not among them. Instead, Sergio Romo pitched the ninth and retired Charles Blackmon on a fly ball to end it. Youre in a situation where you have to win now, Bochy said.TRAINERS ROOMGiants: INF Eduardo Nunez is making slight progress from a mild hamstring strain but could still miss the wild-card round of the playoffs if San Francisco makes it that far. Nunez has not played since Sept. 25.UP NEXTRockies: RHP Chad Bettis (13-8) makes his final start of the season against Milwaukee on Friday. Seven of Bettis wins this season have come at Coors Field.Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner (14-9) pitches the series opener against the Dodgers on Friday night. Bumgarner is winless over his previous four starts and has a 4.21 ERA during that span. ' ' '