Three Things To Know About 2023 BYU Football Opponent Sam Houston

May 18, 2023, 3:02 PM | Updated: 3:16 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The first opponent on the 2023 BYU football schedule is Sam Houston.

If you’re not familiar with Sam Houston, that’s OK. The Bearkats, located in Huntsville, Texas, are making the jump from the FCS to the FBS. They stepped in for the vacancy left behind by Tennessee, who bought out the trip to Provo to play Virginia in nearby Nashville instead.

So Sam Houston was willing to line up against the newly minted Power Five team BYU. The Bearkats will reportedly receive $1.2 million to play the one-time game in Provo on September 2.

BYU vs. Sam Houston

Date: Saturday, September 2, 2023

Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium (Provo, Utah)

Kickoff: TBA


Radio: KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM, 1160 AM

Bearkats are making the jump to Conference USA

The ripple effects of Texas and Oklahoma moving to the SEC goes beyond BYU and three AAC programs jumping to the Big 12. A long realignment chain trickled down to Conference USA, which was on life support after losing six programs to the AAC.

FCS powerhouse Sam Houston opted to make the leap to the FBS by joining C-USA. The Bearkats join Liberty, Jacksonville State, and New Mexico State as newcomers in 2023. Kennesaw State will make the leap from FCS to C-USA in 2024.

Sam Houston will not be eligible for postseason opportunities in its first two years with C-USA as part of its transition to the FBS.

The move to C-USA comes two years after Sam Houston joined the WAC in 2021. Moving to the WAC took place after a long 34-year history in the Southland Conference.

Held out players last season

Last season, Sam Houston had an uncharacteristic 5-4 record. A far different look than what they experienced in 2021, going 11-1. Then months before that, they were the FCS National Champions during the spring season with a perfect 10-0 record.

The dip is because head coach K.C. Keeler decided to redshirt his key players with the hopes of having immediate success with a veteran roster in C-USA.

Some of the top players that the Bearkats redshirted last season include wide receiver Ife Adeyi, who caught the game-winning touchdown in Sam Houston’s title game in the spring of 2021. Also returning is linebacker Trevor Williams who has accumulated 260 tackles in his college career.

Williams will team up at linebacker with WAC defensive player of the year Kavian Gaither.

On Sam Houston’s spring roster, they had 40 players listed as juniors, seniors, or graduates.

Potential QB battle for Sam Houston?

The returning leader at quarterback for Sam Houston is senior Keegan Shoemaker. Last season, Shoemaker passed for 1,122 yards and rushed for an additional 254. However, he only completed 47% of his passes last season.

The Bearkats added Grant Gunnell from the transfer portal in the post-spring window. Gunnell has had a strange college career. Sam Houston will be his fourth college since 2019. He began at Arizona, then transferred to Memphis after Kevin Sumlin was fired in Tucson. After one year with Memphis, Gunnell transferred to North Texas last year. He only threw nine pass attempts last year for the Mean Green.

In high school, Gunnell had an accomplished prep career at St. Pius X in Houston, throwing for over 16,000 yards.

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Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Three Things To Know About 2023 BYU Football Opponent Sam Houston