BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Brian Bell threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns and Sam Houston State cruised to a 34-16 FCS playoff quarterfinal win over Montana State on Friday night.
The Bearkats (10-3) took advantage of Jon Ellis' fumble on a first down reception to take control of the game late in the third quarter. Montana State (11-2) had cut Sam Houston State's lead to 20-9 on its first drive of the second half only to see the turnover set up a short field and a touchdown pass from Bell to Chance Nelson giving the Bearkats a 27-9 lead.
The Bobcats were dealt a blow early when senior linebacker, and Big Sky Conference defensive player of the year, Jody Owens was injured and didn't return.
Montana State was also without the services of its leading rusher Cody Kirk for most of the game.
Bearkats running back Tim Flanders had 106 yards on 31 carries.
Richard Sincere scored on a 12-yard run for the Bearkats in the second quarter. Trey Diller scored on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Bell, and Miguel Antonio tacked on a field goal to complete the first half scoring and give the Bearkats a 20-3 lead.
Sam Houston will face the winner between Eastern Washington and Illinois State.
Sam Houston State eliminated Montana State in the quarterfinals for the second straight year. Last season, at home in Huntsville, the Bearkats routed the Bobcats 49-13.