By Garrett Martin
Texas State took down South Alabama by a final score of 30-28 at Jim Wacker Field, which ended a three game losing stint amidst offensive woes in previous weeks. 15,473 fans came out to attend Texas State’s annual homecoming game. One that they enjoyed from start to finish.
Two Bobcats had career days in this exciting matchup against the Jaguars: sophomore Tyler Vitt and senior Hutch White. On the receiving end, White was Vitt’s main target in huge spots moving the chains and allowing drives to continue in 3rd-and-long situations. White had 10 catches and had 165 yards receiving.
The yardage total was the most by a Bobcat since Texas State joined FBS division one football in 2012.
Vitt found a groove that Bobcat fans didn’t know he had in him, and it led to his first career victory at Texas State. Vitt threw for a career high of 373 yards and tied his career high with 3 touchdowns.
“Man, he’s a fighter. He’s a blue-collar kid that shows up,” head coach Jake Spavital said. “He doesn’t let much phase him. And we put a lot on him. He was running a lot of QB-draws and some zone read stuff and managing the game.”
“I really strive to be that guy,” Vitt said. “The guy that’s going to work every day, in and out. Be the guy that sets the example, the tempo of the practice.”
Heading into the matchup the Bobcats and the Jaguars shared similar positions in the conference. Both teams entered the game struggling against Sun Belt opponents, with a combined conference record of 1-7. The one win was Texas State’s win over Georgia State back on Sep. 21.
“The offense is improved,” Spavital said. “There’s a lot of starters out in this game…I told these guys before the game, no one cares. No one’s going to feel sorry for you, and they stepped up.”
South Alabama head coach Steve Campbell and offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield previously relied on the option rushing attack with quarterback Cephus Johnson and running back Tra Minter. However, Johnson only played the first drive of the game before he was replaced by freshman Desmond Trotter.
Halfway through the second quarter, with South Alabama leading 7-6, Vitt and the Bobcat offense marched down the field in the most convincing fashion all season.
After getting past midfield on the backs of running backs Anthony D. Taylor and freshman Calvin Hill, Vitt hit sophomore wide receiver Javan Banks on a play action, deep post route for a 40-yard touchdown. The play put the Bobcats up 13-7 and capped off an 8-play, 92 yard drive, the longest drive of the season.
After halftime, the Bobcats struck first on a 6-play, 75 yard drive with a 38-yard pass from Vitt to sophomore Trevis Graham Jr. giving the lead to the Bobcats 20-14.
The Jaguars struck back immediately with a long drive of their own, utilizing the ground game and time efficient passes to put them up with an 8-yard touchdown, 21-20.
Then, the Bobcats answered right back. Another 6-play drive fueled by another 3rd-and-long completion to White meant that Vitt could complete a 17-yard touchdown pass to Graham, his second touchdown catch of the game.
Now ahead 27-21, Texas State traded possessions with South Alabama. One included a missed 44-yard field goal from senior kicker Joshua Rowland.
At the beginning of the 4th quarter, South Alabama marched down the field into Texas State territory picking up five first downs en route to a 6-yard touchdown run from Minter.
Needing a score trailing 28-27, the Bobcats answered right back with a 7-play drive. In the drive, Vitt converted on 3rd down twice to take the ball to the Jaguar 14-yard line where Rowland converted a 31-yard field goal to take the lead, 30-28.
“That’s what I sit here and preach about all the time. Complementary football, momentum swings and playing together,” Spavital said. “They don’t have any quit…they fight till the end.”
A key stop on 4th down by senior Bryan London and junior Caeveon Patton gave the Bobcats the ball back with 4:26 left in the game, but they failed to convert a first down with field position on the Jaguars side of the field. On the preceding punt, freshman punter Seamus O’Kelly bobbled a low snap and lost the chance to pin the Jaguars with deep field position.
The Jaguars started their last possession on the Bobcat’s 40-yard line with 2:44 remaining in the game. Trotter completed a pass for 14 yards on 3rd-and-4 to pick up the first down and great field goal position.
On 4th-and-1, South Alabama kicker Frankie Onate missed his only field goal attempt of the game, which sealed the third victory for Texas State on homecoming weekend.
The Bobcats host the Troy Trojans in the final home game next Saturday on Nov.16 at 2 p.m. It’s military appreciation day at Jim Wacker field, but it’s also senior day! Seniors like Hutch White, Bryan London II, and Aaron Brewer will be playing their final game at Bobcat Stadium on Saturday.
If you’re unable to go to the game, you can listen to the game on KTSW 89.9 with Bill Culhane and Clint Shields, with pregame coverage beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Featured image by Nathan Rarangol.