By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
Maybe you weren’t especially nervous before the Texas State Bobcats took the field against Texas Southern at Bobcat Stadium Saturday evening.
But Texas State head football coach Brad Wright felt enough anxiety for everyone in town. Of course, it’s his job. But it’s also his football team, which played with resounding flatness a week earlier, and his football program, which can scarcely afford such performances, and certainly not two in a row.
Wright apparently felt better after his offense scored the fourth most points in school history with a 63-39 win against a Texas Southern squad picking up steam under former Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid. The Bobcats came out as if shot from a cannon to score five touchdowns in the first half and, despite another struggling defensive performance, the Bobcats never played under serious threat of defeat from late in the second quarter.
After the game, Wright knew what he got from his players and, as he said a couple times, “We still have a lot of work to do.” But he said it at the end of a win that raised his team to 3-2, and he couldn’t have been sure beforehand if he would end the night breathing those welcomed sighs of relief.
“I threw up before the game,” Wright said. “I didn’t know what to expect. You make your living doing this … It was gut wrenching. It was a long week.”
College coaches are unique in their requirement to produce results from those guys who lie somewhere between kids and adults, and, for reasons built into Texas State’s ambitions and competitive context, the Bobcats can’t just whistle past those days when the kids don’t have it. Fortunately for Wright and his stomach, the Texas State offensive players saved the day.
The Bobcats finished the night with 599 total yards, just a routine bomb by Saturday night standards from the team record of 680 yards against Prairie View A&M in 1991. Their 334 passing yards ended just a shorter toss from the school record of 400 yards against Georgia Southern in 2006.
More importantly, perhaps, a star was re-born at Texas State. After two games on the bench, junior and two-year starter Bradley George came in to relieve sore-elbowed Clint Toon in the second quarter and pulled the Bobcats through this circus with 14 completions in 17 attempts for 281 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Given that the George anticipated by Texas State followers has returned to sight while Toon now waits out an injury, Wright said George might have “the inside track” for a return to his starting position. However, Wright cautioned, the week will tell.
“When you’re on the sidelines, you learn things,” George said. “It gives you a new respect for it.”
Said Wright, “To Bradley’s credit, he never tanked it. He was positive the whole time.”
The Bobcats needed every inch of George’s passing yardage to counteract Reid’s prolific performance. Reid completed 38 of 64 passes for 481 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions against a depleted Texas State defense, which played for the second straight week without injured corners Morris Crosby and Will Thompson.
Reid entered the game averaging only 169.4 passing yards per game, but he progressed in recent games from 53 yards to 208 to 267 before putting it together against Texas State.
“Each week, Bobby gets a better feel for what we’re doing,” Texas Southern head coach Johnnie Cole said. “If we keep tempo tonight, I feel we left 28 points on the field.”
The first half unwound as an aerial free-for-all, or, depending on how one looks at it, a comedy of vulnerable pass defenses. Before halftime, these two teams passed for a combined 515 yards and combined forces for 680 total yards.
As the sun set on San Marcos with a football game happening beneath, visions of Sept. 19, 1987 danced through the heads of disbelieving football writers looking for a record. It was on that day when Bethune-Cookman and Howard University set the all time combined yardage mark for championship division football with 1,418.
This game ended a couple football fields short at 1,222. But the effect was the same: dazzling offensive performances on both sides.
Texas State’s Karrington Bush touched the ball only seven times and totaled 210 yards, including two 49-yard kick returns and 112 rushing yards in five attempts, two of which ended in touchdowns. Bobcats wide receiver Cameron Luke made five catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Texas Southern wide receiver William Osborne caught 11 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bobcats scored on five of their nine first-half possessions, counting their clock-shortened effort at the end of the first half. The Bobcats unwrapped every weapon in their store, including George, who completed nine of ten passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns just in the final ten minutes of the second quarter.
Indeed, George’s superior passing skill enabled Texas State to kick its offense into highest gear, immediately tacking up three touchdowns that involved covering large expanses of the field quickly.
Entering a 14-14 game, George moved the Bobcats 79 yards in five plays, including a 28-yard pass to E.J. LeBlanc, which set up a 39-yard touchdown pass to Blake Burton. Right after the Bobcats forced Texas Southern three-and-out, George launched a 70-yard touchdown pass to Luke, giving them a 28-14 lead.
“It actually wasn’t a very good throw,” George said. “I threw it a little bit inside and Cam made a good play.”
Not to be too outdone, Reid moved his offense 73 yards in nine plays. A pass interference penalty against the Bobcats helped the drive along, moving Texas Southern to the home 28, then Reid rushed 11 yards and, later ten yards for the touchdown. However, Texas Southern’s attempt for a two-point conversion failed and the Bobcats still led, 28-20.
Again, George responded quickly, throwing 28 yards to Mishak Rivas, then 22 yards to Daren Dillard for the touchdown. The Bobcats suddenly held their largest lead of the first half, 35-20, with 2:23 remaining before intermission.
It would be misleading, however, to say the Bobcats didn’t move before George entered the game. From the Karrington Bush’s 49-yard return of the opening kickoff, they were flying. Within four plays, Toon threw 34 yards to Luke for a touchdown, giving them a 7-0 lead.
Texas Southern drove steadily towards a field goal attempt on its first possession, but missed a 38-yard try. In a turn of events that would prove unusual, the Bobcats failed to notch even a first down on their next try, and Texas Southern responded with a long drive entirely composed of Reid rushes and passes before his 21-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Thomas tied the game, 7-7.
Again, Texas State scored nearly without opposition when Aaron Canady ran for a 38-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the ensuing possession. Thus, Texas State held a 14-7 lead after the first quarter. But Texas Southern retaliated after Toon threw an interception to load the visitors at the Bobcats 13. Two plays hence, Reid threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Osborne, tying the game, 14-14.
Then George entered and, suddenly, the Bobcats were scoring even more often.
“He was the difference in the game,” Cole said of Texas State’s 6-foot-6 passer. “He sees over everything so well and they really picked up after he went in there.”
Inevitably, the question becomes whether George will be in there when the Bobcats kickoff next Saturday at McNeese State for the toughest imaginable Southland Conference road game to start the league season. But maybe, after Saturday night’s effort, Wright will find the coming week easier to stomach, whatever he decides.Email | Print