Sam Houston State holds on to reach FCS final

Sam Houston State 31, Montana 28

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Brian Bell threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score as unbeaten Sam Houston State held off Montana 31-28 on Friday night to advance to the FCS championship game.

Sam Houston State's Brian Bell scores during the first quarter   of a 31-28 victory over Montana.  BRETT COOMER/HOUSTON CHRONICLE
BRETT COOMER/HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Sam Houston State's Brian Bell scores during the first quarter of a 31-28 victory over Montana.

The Bearkats (14-0), who led 21-0 after the first quarter, will play the Georgia Southern-North Dakota State winner on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.

Montana ends the season 11-3.

DIVISION III CHAMPIONSHIP

WISCONSIN-WHITEWATER 13, MOUNT UNION 10

In Salem, Va., Levell Coppage scored on a 1-yard run and Wisconsin-Whitewater shut down Mount Union until the closing minutes to win its third consecutive Division III national championship, in the seventh consecutive title game meeting between the schools.

The victory was the 45th in a row for the Warhawks (15-0). The Purple Raiders finished 14-1.

Coppage, the most outstanding player of the past two title games, wasn’t nearly as dominant, but cashed in on his most important opportunity after the Warhawks forced a fumble and recovered it at the Mount Union 1. Coppage took it in on the next play, making it 10-0 with 4:02 left in the third quarter.

The Purple Raiders, who had only 77 yards of offense at that point, answered with a 71-yard drive, but had to settle for a 19-yard field goal when they couldn’t punch it in.

Whitewater answered that with Eric Kindler’s 30-yard field goal with 5:34 to play.

Mount Union mounted an eight-play, 72-yard drive that ended with Matt Piloto’s 8-yard scoring pass to A.J. Claycomb with 3:20 to play, giving the Purple Raiders a chance to hold on defense and score.

They held on defense, but then so did the Warhawks, stopping Chris Denton well short of a first down on fourth down, and then finishing off its fourth title in five years.

The 3-point margin was the closest since Mount Union beat Bridgewater 30-27 in 2001.

The Warhawks’ defense was clearly the star of the night, setting up Whitewater’s lone TD by sacking Piloto twice in three plays after the Purple Raiders got the ball at their 16. The first sack, by Ryan Cortez, was for minus 11 yards. On the second, Loussaint Minett stripped the ball away as Piloto was in the grasp of two other Warhawks and Cole Klotz recovered at the 1.

One the next play, Coppage scored, boosting Whitewater’s lead to 10-0. He finished with 91 yards on 32 carries and caught a pass for 14 yards, a far cry from his 299 yards rushing and three touchdowns last season, but still enough. Matt Blanchard was 9 for 13 for 97 yards.

Minett was selected the most outstanding player.

The Purple Raiders responded with a 16-play drive, and had a first-and-goal at the 6. Jeremy Murray went for 3 yards on first down, and 2 more on second, but lost a yard on third down and coach Larry Kehres settled for Tyler Almeida’s 19-yard field goal, making it 10-3.

Earlier, the Warhawks seemed in complete control, but without much to show for it.

Whitewater drove into Mount Union territory on each of its first three drives, and came away with something the third time, helped by a 15-yard pass interference call against Chaz Jordan. That put the ball at the 32, and when the drive stalled, Kindler kicked a 45-yard field goal.

The Purple Raiders responded by driving into Whitewater territory for the first time on their next possession, but Piloto’s pass was intercepted by Chris Pendergast from the Warhawks 30. It was one of two interceptions thrown by Piloto, who was 21 for 38 for 177 yards


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