(STATS) – The first time Jeremiah Briscoe stepped on Sam Houston State’s campus in December 2014, he was looking for a new school. The Bearkats were looking for a way to get past the North Dakota State juggernaut in the FCS playoffs.
Sam Houston was about a week removed from falling 35-3 at NDSU in the national semifinals – the Bearkats’ third playoff loss to the Bison in four years. The perennial Southland Conference power also lost in the 2011 and ’12 championship games.
Briscoe made the transfer to Sam Houston from UAB, which at the time had discontinued its program. He became the Bearkats’ starting quarterback in the 2015 playoffs and has gone on to post a record-setting career, winning the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award as the national player of the year.
It’s basically come full circle for the 6-foot-3, 225-pound fifth-year senior. Friday night, he leads No. 6 seed Sam Houston (12-1) back to No. 2 seed North Dakota State (12-1) for a national semifinal and the chance to advance to the championship game in Frisco, Texas.
Briscoe will be in Frisco in three weeks for the announcement of the 2017 Payton Award. He’s hoping to bring his teammates along to play in the title game.
“It’s something that’s been on my mind for a long time, it’s something I’ve wanted to do in my college career,” Briscoe said about facing the Bison in the famed Fargodome, “so something I’m really, really looking forward to.
“But getting the chance to really finally spend a week on watching them and what they do, it’s impressive. You can find out real quick why they won five championships in a row (2011-15) and why their program is where it is because they’re disciplined. They have some unbelievable athletes and they do a lot of things and they do a lot of things well. So it’s something (where) I’m going to have to be on my ‘A’ game, diagnosing coverages and blitzes and everything like that. But it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.”
Briscoe leads the FCS with a career-best 4,714 passing yards as well as 44 touchdown passes, an impressive total but 13 below the FCS record he set as a junior. Much of his production is from throwing passes to wide receivers Davion Davis, Nathan Stewart and Yedidiah Louis, a trio which has combined for 205 receptions, 3,609 yards and 37 touchdowns.
“From an accuracy point and an arm strength, probably as good as we have seen,” North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman said. “He reminds of the kid from Eastern Washington (Gage Gubrud) as far as his ability to put it in spots that you’re like, ‘Not that many guys throw it there.’
“He’ll be on the hash and throw a field-side out over the top of an underneath defender and in front of a deep defender. He throws the deep ball exceptionally well. They’re covered an awful lot and he puts it in the only spot that his receivers can go get it. And that’s the thing that’s so impressive is their guys go get the football.”
Briscoe, 24, said he sees similarity in defensive coverages between North Dakota State and Sam Houston’s first two playoff opponents, South Dakota and Kennesaw State, but feels the Bison players are bigger and more athletic.
While Briscoe has thrown for at least 300 yards 11 times this season, the Bison have allowed that amount in only 11 games since 2004.
“I do like our chances and I’ll take our receivers and our skill guys up against anybody in the country. I think they’re that good,” Briscoe said.
“I personally don’t know what it’s like playing in the Fargodome, but all I’ve heard is it’s an unbelievable experience. It’s something that I’m looking forward to. It’s something at the end of the day, it’s just another football game. That’s what we’ve been saying. It’s been a one-game season all year long for us.”