After a 1-1 start to the 2015 season in non-conference play, the Lamar University football team now turns its attention to the Southland Conference, and its opener against No. 3 Sam Houston State. The Bearkats enter the game with an 0-1 record, and similar to LU’s showing at Baylor, Sam Houston put a scare into Texas Tech before falling, 59-45, in its last outing.

“Sam Houston State is a very talented, well coached football team who is going to be coming into our game having had two weeks to prepare for us,” said LU head coach Ray Woodard. “There is a reason why they have already been ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation this season. We have our work cut out for us.”

After a season-opening blowout of Bacone College, the Cardinals went on the road where they were heavy underdogs to No. 4 Baylor. Instead of playing the role of lovable losers, the Cardinals stunned Baylor by forcing a tug-of-war battle that saw LU take its first lead of the game with 13:07 remaining in the second quarter, and trailed by only seven with less than a minute remaining in the half.

The Bearkats will be well rested entering the Southland Conference opener having had two weeks to prepare for LU. Sam Houston State found similar success in their matchup against an FBS opponent recording 637 yards of total offense, and actually outgained the Red Raiders despite falling by the score of 59-45.

SHSU utilized a balanced attack against Texas Tech rushing for 317 yards, and completing 36 passes for 320 yards. The Bearkats quarterbacking duo combined to compete nearly 70 percent of its passes including one for a touchdown. When they didn’t burn the Red Raiders secondary through the air, the duo of Jared Johnson and Jeremiah Briscoe combined for 82 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown.

“We had a lot of energy coming into the week,” said Sam Houston State head coach K.C. Keeler. “I know most of our guys watched the Lamar vs. Baylor game on TV and I think that is why practice has been so good. We watched Lamar play a heck of a football game against a great opponent. I think that added to our energy. We know will be playing a good football team this week.”

In addition to matching the Bears offense throughout the majority of the game, LU will also be looking for its defense to cause similar disruptions against Sam Houston. The Cardinals forced four turnovers in the game, and picked off BU signal caller Seth Russell three times.

One area the Cards will be looking to clean up is penalties. Big Red has been flagged 25 times for nearly 200 yards in its first two games.

“We have to improve on penalties this week,” said Woodard. “We have to cut down on the mistakes, and giving our opponents field position. I would also like to see us do a better job on third downs to keep drives alive.”

Saturday’s contest in Huntsville marks the third consecutive season LU has opened conference play against the Bearkats, with the ‘Kats being ranked among the top five in two of those meetings. The Cardinals will be looking to reverse their fortunes against SHSU in Huntsville. Of the 10 games played in front of the Bearkat faithful, LU has walked away with a 1-8-1 record.

Saturday’s game is slated to kick off at 6 p.m. from Bowers Stadium and will be televised on the American Sports Network. It will be the Cards second consecutive game against a top-five team and its second-straight televised game.