By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
Texas State football coach Brad Wright gets his Saturday night, when he lines up his Bobcats against Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas (7 p.m.).
Though many Bobcat fans might wonder why Wright would be so hopped up about playing a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school after escaping 21-14 last Saturday against Division II Angelo State, he might have a point.
Wright insists that the gap between Texas State’s Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Division II is not as great as it might seem. While FCS schools are allowed 63 scholarships, they are held to Division I entrance requirements. Meanwhile, Division II is allowed only 45 scholarships, but without the Division I entrance requirements. That is, the Division II freedom to use athletes who aren’t proven academically makes up for 18 fewer scholarships.
Meanwhile, Texas State has undertaken a university-wide initiative to move into the FBS. By any reasonable accounting, Texas State’s home in FBS would be Conference USA, the league to which SMU belongs. Thus, tonight’s game is something of an audition and an assessment of Texas State’s worthiness for the big time.
“As a team, and as a program, it’s a much better barometer of where you are,” Wright said. “I’d always rather play up (in classification). And (Conference USA) is an area where I think we have a legitimate chance of belonging once we get up to 85 (scholarships).”
If there’s a Conference USA team with which Texas State has a legitimate chance of belonging on the same field today, it’s SMU, which is coming off a 1-11 season with a new coach installing a new offensive system with a freshman quarterback.
SMU, which has never recovered from the death penalty imposed in the 1980s, lured June Jones and his run-and-shoot offense from Hawaii, where he built a mid-level contender. In one of his first moves, Jones brought along quarterback Bo Levy Mitchell, the freshman from Katy who Jones originally recruited to Hawaii.
Mitchell completed 25 of 43 passes for 244 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions last Saturday in a 56-27 loss at Rice. The Mustangs only rushed 14 times in that game, so they will go as far as Mitchell can thrown them because they demonstrated almost no inclination to run the ball.
However, SMU will provide a very interesting test for Texas State’s new pass defense strategy, which consists in keeping receivers in front of defenders to prevent the long pass play. The run-and-shoot basically consists in flooding the areas underneath the deep zone with option routes and counting on receivers to take off once they catch the ball.
“We’ve got to do a great job with underneath coverage,” Wright said. “It’s one of those areas where we are going to get better. What I’ve found is that teams get impatient taking that and eventually try to throw long.”
Where, according to plan, Texas State will be able to thwart the SMU passing game. That’s the idea, anyway.
Offensively, Texas State seeks to establish the run and work in a 50-50 mix of runs and passes. The Bobcats didn’t have a 100-yard rusher against Angelo State, but they ran the ball effectively, averaging 4.0 yards per rush. Karrington Bush averaged 6.9 yards per carry (nine for 62), while Stan Zwinggi averaged 4.3 (nine for 40).
The passing game presented problems for Texas State, especially in light of quarterback Bradley George’s sub-par performance, during which he completed only two of nine passes with two interceptions. George sat for the whole second half as Wright turned to Clint Toon to win the game.
However, Wright said George will take the start against SMU, saying, “he had a bad day at the office.” Toon also will play, though it’s hard to predict how much.
Asked if his basic approach is to see which quarterback has the hot hand in the first half and go with that quarterback in the second half, Wright said, “Deep down inside, that might be what’s happening, but you hope they’re both hot.”Email | Print