Sam Houston State made history.
Once again, so did Bearkats' coach K.C. Keeler.
Already the Football Championship Subdivision's winningest coach in terms of playoff victories, Keeler became the sport's first-ever coach to win a national championship at two different programs.
Eighteen years after leading Delaware to the national title, and in his eighth NCAA Championship game appearance as head coach, Keeler on Sunday steadied No. 2 seed Sam Houston State as it rallied to topple No. 1 seed South Dakota State, 23-21, in the title bout at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
The triumph marked the third-straight week in which the Bearkats (10-0) rallied in the second half to win.
“It just showed such character by our kids,” Keeler said in his post-game press conference. “It's a really special group when you consider this thing started in June and we had no idea when this would ever end.”
Where it ended was 200 miles from Sam Houston's Huntsville, Texas, campus, in the Dallas-area hamlet of Frisco.
And it ended with 7,840 fans in the stands, a large swath of them Bearkats faithful made believers in Keeler's seven years at the helm. They withstood a lengthy inclement-weather delay and a four-hour, six-minute game.
Sam Houston led 17-7 after it spanned the play-stoppage with 17 unanswered points.
The Jackrabbits (8-2) got the second and third of freshman tailback Isaiah Davis' three rushing touchdowns to regain the lead, 21-17.
Then, on third-and-goal from the 10 inside the final 30 seconds and out of timeouts, Bearkats signal-caller Eric Schmid forever etched his name into the Sam Houston annals when he drilled a strike to Ife Adeyi for the game-winning score with 16 ticks left on the clock.
SDSU had lost star quarterback Mark Gronowski just a series into the game due to a left leg injury. The Jackrabbits continued to forge ahead in this game, just as they have continued to do so under veteran coach John Stiegelmeier.
He's turned them into a regular contender in arguably the sport's toughest football conference, and he's done so through a methodical, nearly quarter-century run at his alma mater.
“How should our fans remember this team?,” Coach Stig posed in his post-game presser. “They should remember a bunch of guys who bonded together and gave everything that they had.”
WHY AN SEC SIGNEE CHOSE COACH PRIME
KaTron Evans once held scholarship offers from Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State, among others, in a who's who of the four-star defensive tackle and former top-200 prospect's former suitors.
Ultimately, the 6-foot-4 Evans, a standout at Baltimore's St. Frances Academy, signed with the University of Tennessee.
Evans won't ever suit up in a Volunteers uniform. During the weekend, he revealed his commitment to Jackson State.
Yes, that Jackson State. The HBCU institution continuing to grab headlines with Deion Sanders, aka Coach Prime, at the helm.
Sanders is early in his tenure at the Jackson, Mississippi, school, and his spring season serves as quite the learning process.
Still, Sanders' accumulation of talent for JSU is noteworthy – and should only further help shine the light on a league full of some outstanding players.
Former Alcorn State wideout Chris Blair featured prominently in Green Bay during the past few days' Packers' mini-camp.
It was just last weekend that Sanders landed a four-year letter-winner from Georgia Tech, Antwan Owens II.
Still, Evans' situation is intriguing if only for the direct language included in Evans' official request to be released from his UT NLI: “NCAA rules violation,” sources who viewed Evans' form told FootballScoop.
“Tennessee got caught up real bad with paying and my family wants me out,” the form reads.
The Volunteers' athletics department granted Evans a full release. Tennessee fired then-head coach Jeremy Pruitt, as well as nine additional members of the football staff and recruiting department, in mid-January amidst the school's and the NCAA's probes into Pruitt's recruiting tactics.
COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF
Depending on the opener, it's between 14 and 16 weeks when the vast majority of these FCS programs are scheduled to open their 2021 seasons – their regularly scheduled '21 campaigns.
And the early slate does not disappoint.
On Sept. 1, perennial playoff resident Jacksonville State steps up in competition to battle UAB in a neutral site game in Montgomery, Alabama.
UAB held on to coach Bill Clark in a wild few days earlier this year as Clark emerged as a candidate at Auburn.
The Gamecocks advanced into the quarterfinals of the just-completed FCS Playoffs, where they lost to Delaware.
A pair of surprising FCS Playoffs participants this spring, Davidson and Virginia Military Institute, open the season Sept. 4 against one another as defending champions of the Pioneer Football League and Southern Conference, respectively.
Sanders' Jackson State squad opens its first full season with Coach Prime at the helm Sunday, Sept. 5, opposite Florida A&M in Miami at the Orange Blossom Classic.
The defending champion Bearkats will carry their 10-game winning streak to Flagstaff, Arizona, for an intersectional bout with Northern Arizona Sept 2.
Runner-up SDSU opens at Colorado State on Sept 4.