by Logan Harris
The Texas State Bobcats (1-4), as well as the South Alabama Jaguars (3-3) will be looking to bounce back from their previous Sun Belt matchups as both teams fell to conference opponents in their last game.
The Bobcats are coming off of their second bye week, but last time they were in action they came up short against Louisiana-Lafayette, 49-27. The Jaguars, who won their first conference matchup against Troy, are also coming off a loss in their last Sun Belt game when they faced Arkansas State. The outcome was 49-31.
Neither team has gotten off to the start they wanted to in conference-play, so this game will be a pivotal one. The Bobcats, who had hopes of clinching the program’s first ever bowl game coming into the season, can ill-afford to fall to 0-2 within the conference and 1-5 overall.
These two teams have locked up twice now since Texas State moved up from the FCS to the Sun Belt, and twice has the games come down to a last second play. Back in 2013, the Bobcats hosted the Jags in their first ever homecoming as an FBS team, and squeaked by with a last second, game winning field goal. Last year’s matchup came down to a defensive goal line stand by the South Alabama defense, where Tyler Jones and the Bobcats came up just a tad short on their comeback bid when they ran out of time after a 2nd and Goal from the 5.
These teams have a little rivalry brewing here with all these last-second finishes. When asked what they expect from this matchup, both Jafus Gaines and David Mims gave the same answer, “I wouldn’t expect anything different from the last two matchups.” And when they say ‘anything different’ they are talking about a hard-fought battle that’ll likely come down to who has the ball last
Keys for Texas State:
Texas State has had some real issues of the defensive side of the ball, but biggest issue has been the lack of turnovers. The Bobcats are 1 of just 2 teams in all of the FBS to not have an interception on the year (Virginia). That is a very alarming statistic; especially considering Texas State led the Sun Belt in interceptions last year with 13
Head Coach Dennis Franchione is never afraid to address the elephant in the room and when asked how important it is to start forcing some more turnovers he said, “If we’re going to win, we’re going to have to.” Easier said than done obviously, so when asked what the keys are for the turnovers he said, “We need to get a better pass rush from the edges.” And, “When we do draw them up (blitzes), we need to actually get there (to the quarterback).”
Everyone knows if you want to force the opposing quarterback into mistakes, you need to get pressure on him and make him uncomfortable, and the Bobcats will have a good chance of doing that against Cody Clements this week. Clements loves to sling the ball around and hasn’t done a great job of protecting the ball while doing so. Clements does have over 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year, but he also has 9 interceptions.
Clearly Texas State has had issues forcing turnovers, while South Alabama has had trouble taking care of the ball. Whoever can right the ship and fix their relative issues should have a huge advantage Saturday night.
Another key for the Bobcats will be resiliency. Coach Fran alluded to all the injuries Texas State has been facing this year, and classifies this season as one of his two worst years with injuries, in his 40 years of being a head coach.
The Bobcats have lost more than 10 players for the entire 2015 season, on an injury report that includes 8 ACL tears. That long list of injuries includes backup running back, Chris Nutall, who was having a great start to the season splitting carries with Rob Lowe. Nutall broke his leg against the Ragin’ Cajuns, effectively ending his season and his Texas State football career.
Bouncing back and responding to these unfortunate breaks will be key for the Bobcats who have a whole lot on their plate, if they’re going to reach the goals they set prior to the season.
If not now, then when? If Texas State is ever going to turn it around on the defensive side of the ball and start making some plays, it has to be this week. I see Bobcat’s offense getting back on track and the defense finally making some plays this week.
I predict the Bobcats winning and I see it coming down to the last minute, just like the previous matchups.
Texas State 41 South Alabama 37