Bearkats hope FBS opener jump-starts banner 2019

(STATS) - Sam Houston State hopes its first FBS game in four years will lead to the Southland Conference power getting back on track in 2019.

Last season, the Bearkats finished 6-5 overall and tied for fourth in the conference - far below a standard in which they reached the FCS semifinals in five of the previous seven years.

Opening the Bearkats' 12-game schedule is an Aug. 31 matchup at New Mexico. They won the most recent meeting between the two programs in 2011, and it's their first FBS game since they faced Texas Tech in 2015.

"It was important for us to get an FBS game on our schedule," sixth-year coach K.C. Keeler said. "It is something we have wanted to do for the last couple of years, but for one reason or another, the scheduling hasn't worked out. This will be a very good early season test for us."

Sam Houston will play six home games, starting with Oklahoma Panhandle on Sept. 14. Schedule highlights include the "Battle of the Piney Woods" against Stephen F. Austin on Oct. 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston; visits from the defending Southland co-champs, Incarnate Word on Sept. 21 and Nicholls on Oct. 19; and a Sept. 28 trip to McNeese for their first meeting since 2016.

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2019 Sam Houston State Schedule

Aug. 31, at New Mexico

Sept. 7, Oklahoma Panhandle

Sept. 14, at North Dakota

Sept. 21, Incarnate Word*

Sept. 28, at McNeese*

Oct. 5, Stephen F. Austin* (in Houston)

Oct. 12, Lamar*

Oct. 19, Nicholls*

Oct. 26, at Central Arkansas*

Nov. 9, at Abilene Christian*

Nov. 16, Northwestern State*

Nov. 23, Houston Baptist*

* - Southland Conference game

Updated February 1, 2019

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