Lumberjacks return to Homer Bryce, hosting Abilene Christian Saturday

Lumberjacks return to Homer Bryce, hosting Abilene Christian Saturday

SFA Athletics

NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)

Stephen F. Austin returns to Homer Bryce Stadium to host Abilene Christian Saturday, September 24. The game, presented by Bancorp South, marks Parents Weekend for 2016 as well as the third annual Cally Belcher game and will be streamed through ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.

Saturday's game between Stephen F. Austin and Abilene Christian will once again be streamed in high definition through ESPN3. Fans can find the game online or through the WatchESPN app on portable devices as the Lumberjacks enter year two of their partnership. The audio call courtesy of Rob Meyers will again be carried by Q107.7 FM and online at, as well as through theTuneIn app by following the Lumberjack Sports Network. Live stats will be available with Twitter updates @SFA_Football.

Senior QB Zach Conque picked up the third Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Week honor of his career this week after helping lead SFA to the victory at 13th-ranked McNeese. Conque finished with 325 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, passing for 262 yards with touchdown strikes of 30 and 58 yards, while rushing for a team-best 63 yards and a 36-yard touchdown to open up the scoring. It is the second-straight week an SFA player has been named a conference Player of the Week as Storm Ruiz earned special teams honors the week prior.

2016 Record: 0-3 overall, 0-1 Southland Conference
Last Three Games: L at Air Force (37-21), L vs. Northern Colorado (55-52), L at Houston Baptist (27-24, OT)
Head Coach: Ken Collums (Central Arkansas, 1995). Fifth season at ACU (22-26, .458).
Key Offensive Players:
• #1 Dallas Sealey (So., QB): 72-of-115 (62.6%) for 918 yds., 5 TDs, 0 INTs; 32 rushes for 166 yds., 5 TDs
• #21 Adrian Duncan (Sr., RB): 49 rushes for 213 yds., 1 TD 
• #16 D.J. Fuller (Jr., WR): 15 catches for 231 yds., 3 TDs
• #87 Josh Fink (Fr., WR): 13 catches for 129 yds., 1 TD
• #5 Troy Grant (Jr., WR): 11 catches for 156 yds. 
Key Defensive Players:
• #34 Sam Denmark (Jr., LB): 30 tackles (15 solo), 2.5 TFL, 1 INT
• #12 Bryson Gates (Jr., LB): 24 tackles (19 solo), 3.0 TFL
• #56 Gavin Buford (So., LB): 21 tackles (14 solo), 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sack
• #41 Brandon Richmond (So., S): 17 tackles (8 solo)
• #9 Josh Bloom (Sr., DT): 6 tackles (3 solo), 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack
Synopsis: Abilene Christian is seeking its first win of 2016, sitting a 0-3 on the year following tough losses to Air Force, Northern Colorado and Houston Baptist, falling to the Huskies in overtime last Saturday. The Wildcats are averaging 32.3 points and 479.3 yards per game, totaling 169.3 on the ground and 310.0 in the air. QB Dallas Sealey has proven to be a dual threat, throwing for 306 yards per game while rushing for 55 with 10 total touchdowns. RB Adrian Duncan is averaging 71 yards per game on the ground while five receivers have already eclipsed the 100-yard mark, led by D.J. Fuller's 231 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, ACU is giving up 39.7 points and 551.3 yards per game, including 263.7 rushing yards per game. LB Sam Denmark has been the Wildcats' defensive leader with 30 total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss with Bryson Gates adding 24 tackles and 3.0 TFL on the year as ACU has managed just three sacks so far in 2016.
Stephen F. Austin and Abilene Christian meet for the 17th time Saturday as the Wildcats hold a 10-6 lead in the all-time series. Former Lone Star Conference rivals, SFA and ACU met yearly from 1973-1985 until the Lumberjacks made the move to Division I and have met just three times in the last 30 years. SFA defeated ACU 51-34 in 1999 but the Wildcats have had the upper hand in the two meetings since Abilene Christian joined the Southland Conference, defeating SFA 37-35 in 2014 and 35-32 last season. Head coach Clint Conque is 3-2 in his career against Abilene Christian, going head-to-head against longtime friend and former assistant Ken Collums, the Wildcats' head coach. 

Stephen F. Austin started off Southland Conference play with a statement win, knocking off 13th-ranked McNeese 31-28 in Lake Charles, Louisiana Saturday night. The `Jacks jumped out to a 10-0 lead and took a 17-14 advantage into halftime. The Cowboys took a 28-24 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter before a drive by the `Jacks in the final five minutes gave SFA the 31-28 lead. The Lumberjack defensive unit then made a big stop on fourth down in the waning minutes to preserve the win. QB Zach Conque accounted for 325 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, rushing for one and throwing touchdown strikes to Trae Hartand De'Quann Ruffin. QB Hunter Taylor connected with Tamrick Pace for the game-winning score as LB George Stone set a new career-best, finishing with 13 tackles in the victory.

Senior QB Zach Conque continues to move up the career charts at SFA, now ranking among the program's all-time top-10 in five statistical categories. Following his performance at McNeese Saturday night, the SLC Offensive Player of the Week ranks fourth all-time in career completions (488) and rushing touchdowns (26), sixth in career total offense (6,562) and eighth in both passing yards (5,340) and touchdown passes (34). The only player in SFA history to both pass for 5,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards, Conque moved into 21st all-time in career rushing yards with 1,222 for his career.

Stephen F. Austin continues to bolster a triple threat running attack which has begun to gain steam early in 2016. Senior RB Joshawa West moved into 18th all-time in career rushing yards (1,274) while sophomore RB Loren Easly is knocking on the door of joining the 1,000-yard club, sitting a 858 yards through his first 12 games as a Lumberjack. Add in the 1,222 rushing yards from Conque and the top three rushers for the `Jacks have combined for 3,354 yards during their careers, averaging nearly five yards per carry with a combined 35 touchdowns. 

Senior DE Kedrick Harrison has been a mainstay among the Lumberjack defensive line for the past four seasons and he has now put his name among the program's elite. Harrison posted two sacks in the win at 13th-ranked McNeese Saturday night, upping his career totals to 14.5 sacks and 27 tackles for loss. Harrison is now tied for eighth all-time in program history in TFLs while sitting on the verge of cracking the top-10 in career sacks, playing in 39 career games with 25 starts and 98 total tackles.

Senior QB Hunter Taylor made the most of his opportunity Saturday night and was a key factor in SFA's win over nationally-ranked McNeese. With the `Jacks trailing 28-24 with 5:02 remaining, Taylor drove the Lumberjacks 42 yards in five plays, connecting with WR Tamrick Pace from four yards out in what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown pass. It marks the second time in the last two seasons Taylor has engineered a comeback against a nationally-ranked foe on the road, doing so in SFA's 28-27 win at 21st-ranked Southeastern Louisiana in 2015.

Redshirt freshman Storm Ruiz has already made his presence felt through just three games as a Lumberjack. Ruiz was perfect in kicks once again at McNeese, hitting a 40-yard field goal in the first quarter and drilling all four of his PAT attempts in the win over the Cowboys. Ruiz is now 5-for-5 in field goal attempts and 9-for-9 in PAT attempts and already has three field goals of 40 yards or longer under his belt.

With SFA's 31-28 win at 13th-ranked McNeese Saturday night, 2016 is now the fifth-straight year a Lumberjack team has defeated a nationally-ranked opponent. The streak started with a 42-37 win over 12th-ranked Central Arkansas in 2012, followed by a 52-38 stunner over second-ranked Montana State in 2013. The `Jacks notched a pair of wins over nationally-ranked foes in 2014, defeating eighth-ranked Southeastern Louisiana 27-17 before a 31-16 win at sixth-ranked McNeese, leading into last year's 28-27 rally against 21st-ranked Southeastern Louisiana. Since 2012, SFA is 6-7 in games against nationally-ranked opponents.

Through the first three games of the 2016 season, Stephen F. Austin finds itself among the national FCS leaders in a number of categories. As a team, the Lumberjacks rank third nationally in team sacks (4.00) while sitting 10th in punt return average (23.6), 18th in rushing defense (99.3 ypg) and 20th in passing offense (259.7 ypg). Individually, Storm Ruiz is tied for first nationally in field goal percentage (100.0) and seventh in field goals per game (1.7), Trae Hart is fifth in punt return average (23.6), Kedrick Harrison is seventh in sacks per game (1.33),Trevon Smith is 10th in kick return yards (257), John Franklin is 16th in tackles for loss per game (2.0) with Zach Conque ranking 25th in passing yards (674).

Fresh off its victory at 13th-ranked McNeese Saturday night, Stephen F. Austin is receiving votes in both of this week's FCS polls. The Lumberjacks received 162 votes in the STATS FCS media poll, ranking 29th unofficially, while receiving 14 votes in the FCS coaches poll, unofficially ranked 31st. The last time SFA cracked the top-25 was prior to the 2015 season, checking in at 24th before a 34-28 loss to Northern Arizona in the season opener.

Saturday's game against Abilene Christian is more than just a crucial Southland Conference game for Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks will remember Cally Belcher, an SFA all-conference defensive back who passed away from a brain aneurysm following a spring practice in 1994. Known as one of the hardest hitters in the conference, Belcher's number 16 was permanently retired in 1994. In 2014, the 20th anniversary of Belcher's passing, SFA held the first Cally Belcher game as the number 16 jersey was worn for the first time since his passing by WR Aaron Thomas. Now an annual remembrance of Belcher, RB Joshawa Westwore the number in 2015 with DE Jamal Allen earning the honor Saturday, marking the first time number 16 will appear on defense for the Lumberjacks since 1993.

Since 1983, one SFA home game each season has tied in to the university's Parents Day weekend with today's game against Abilene Christian earning the honors for the 2016 season. SFA has been fairly successful on Parents Day games, posting a 21-11 (.656) overall record. SFA has won four of the last six Parents Day games as ACU will be making its debut as a Parents Day opponent.

Saturday's game against Abilene Christian marks the ninth time in program history SFA will play a game on September 24th. The Lumberjacks are 4-4 all-time on the date, including 1-2 in home games. SFA's last September 24th game came in 2011 when it fell to then-Southland Conference foe Texas State 35-28 at Homer Bryce Stadium. The `Jacks last win on the 24th of September was in 2005, earning a 40-17 victory over Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah. 

Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State resume the fourth-oldest active rivalry in the state of Texas next weekend as the longtime rivals meet for the 91st time in the annual Battle of the Piney Woods at NRG Stadium in Houston. The Lumberjacks are looking to snap a five-game skid to the Bearkats as kickoff is set for 3 p.m. at the home of the NFL's Houston Texans.