HARRISONBURG, Va. - Senior cornerback Darion Flowers stood on the sixth floor of Bridgeforth Stadium, wearing the white visiting uniform with orange trim of the Sam Houston State football team.
The John Tyler High School graduate had just finished addressing the media late Friday night following a game against host James Madison University in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs in the central Shenandoah Valley.
It was a shocking weather environment for Sam Houston, which has a roster full of players from Texas. The temperature sank to 25 degrees by the end of the game, which was broadcast nationally by ESPN2.
And the outcome on the field was less inviting, as the top-ranked team in the country fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter and trailed 42-0 at halftime en route to a 65-7 loss to JMU before a crowd of 15,646.
“It was a great atmosphere, great facilities, which we knew coming in,” Flowers said. “It was a great feeling to play on Friday night again. It is like Texas high school football. It was a great atmosphere and great crowd.”
The wind chill was in the 20s for the game.
“They joke about our Texas boys. I don’t think it was a factor whatsoever,” Sam Houston head coach K.C. Keeler said of the weather.
JMU (12-1), whose only loss was at North Carolina, entered the game scoring the second most points in the country. The Bearkats were first. JMU had 607 yards of total offense with 299 on the ground.
“Really no surprise: they were the football team we saw on film,” Flowers said. “They just managed to do the same things they have done all year. It worked for them.”
Sam Houston had just 270 yards of offense and was two of 19 on third down. Star quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe, who did not practice all week due to an injury, started and was 13 of 44 with two interceptions and just 143 yards through the air.
“They had a great game plan,” said Bearkats running back and Missouri City, Texas product Remus Bulmer, who scored his team’s only touchdown. “It was just a great game plan.”
Flowers switched to cornerback this year after playing linebacker for the Bearkats.
“It was a challenge,” said Flowers, who had four tackles against JMU. “I had been playing somewhat in the box the last three years. I played corner in high school. It was fun playing the position again. My teammates rallied around me and made sure I had help.”
Flowers, a kinesiology major slated to graduate next year, played in eight games this year and had three interceptions. He missed the first five games due to an academic situation over a previous class.
The cornerback ended the year with 48 tackles.
The senior from Tyler played in 15 games last year and had one interception - which he returned 90 yards for a touchdown - and had 52 tackles.
Flowers, as a sophomore, played in 16 games and had 47 tackles.
As a freshman in 2013 he played in seven games and had 15 tackles.
Sam Houston State ended the year 12-1 overall. It was the second year in a row the team was flattened in the playoffs, losing in 2015 by a score of 62-10 to Jacksonville State.
The Dukes advanced to the national semifinals next weekend against North Dakota State (12-1). The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at the Fargodome in Fargo, North Dakota.
The other semifinal matches Youngstown State (11-3) against Eastern Washington (12-1) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Roos Field in Cheney, Washington.
The national title game will be Jan. 7 in Frisco.
“If they play the lights out game like they did tonight that have a chance” to win the national title, Flowers said of JMU.
Flowers was a first team all-district wideout and cornerback at JT. He caught 69 passes as a senior and 64 as a junior, and had 40 tackles and three interceptions as a senior.
With the loss at JMU the college career for Flowers came to an end.
“Honestly it has not sunk in yet,” he said moments after the game ended. “To go out this way … I know my team put all they could into it. Nobody left anything out on the field.”
What will Flowers remember the most of his time at Sam Houston?
“I made a lot of good memories with great guys around me,” he said. “I learned a lot of things for life, not just football. Being around great guys who like to win, who like to do the right thing; it was just a great experience for four years.”
David Driver is a free-lance writer and Virginia native who can be reached at
The Flowers File
Name: Darion Flowers
High school: John Tyler
School: Sam Houston State
Did you know?: He was all-Southland Conference first-team this season … He had a team-high 11 tackles on Dec. 3 as the Bearkats beat Chattanooga in the FCS playoffs … Flowers had interceptions in three straight games this year, including the clincher against McNeese on Nov. 5 … Flowers began his college career at linebacker.