San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 10th, 2008
Struggling Bobcats defense to face nation’s top offense

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

Call it a long shot. Call it an impossibility. Call it a disaster waiting to happen.

Or, like Texas State football coach Brad Wright, you can call it a challenge. That’s what faces the Bobcats Saturday night (7 p.m.) when they open their Southland Conference schedule at McNeese State.

McNeese State leads the nation in scoring offense at 47.0 points per game and leads the nation in total offense at 493.8 yards per game. The Cowboys are ranked third in both major national polls for championship division football. They are the odds-on favorites to win the Southland Conference.

The Bobcats have a bit of a less impressive story to tell. They’re 3-2. According to NCAA statistics through last Saturday, they are 3-2 against the easiest schedule of all the teams playing Division I football, combining the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Texas State’s Division I opponents are a combined 1-13 in games played against other teams.

Texas State’s strong suit is its rushing offense, at which it ranks 45th in the FCS with 131.4 yards per game. But McNeese State ranks 24th in rushing defense, allowing 105.75 yards per game.

McNeese State is a very experienced operation, starting 11 seniors on defense and eight on offense. On top of that, Wright said, the Cowboys are “speed personified.”

Sounds like a problem.

Or as Wright put it, “It’s a challenge. That should be why you play sports, is for the challenge.”

For just about every statistical category one checks, the Cowboys lead the Southland Conference and rank among the national leaders. The lead the league in rushing offense, averaging 226.5 yards per game to rank 11th in the country. They lead the league in turnover margin at plus-1.50 per game, fourth in the country. Quarterback Derrick Fourroux ranks fifth in the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 165.44.

Only two flaws emerge from the McNeese State statistical profile. First, the Cowboys rank 108th in punting with an average net of 28.5 yards. But when you punt as seldom as the Cowboys, who cares?

The second flaw might give Texas State fans cause for hope. The Cowboys have been known to give up points, ranking 78th in scoring defense at 28.25 points per game. Last week, the Cowboys gave up 44, though in a three-overtime win, 46-44 over South Dakota State. The 3-1 Cowboys gave up their next most points in a 35-27 loss to FBS North Carolina.

By the numbers, the Bobcats are just a little worse defensively (101st in scoring defense at 33.8 points per game) and not quite as good offensively, where they rank 17th nationally in rushing (196.0 yards per game), 28th in passing (246.0 yards per game) and ninth overall (442.0 yards per game).

On a note of optimism for the Bobcats, they could be returning to their true identity offensively after Bradley George came off the bench to complete 14 of 17 passes for 281 yards last week in a 63-39 win against Texas Southern. Running back Karrington Bush is coming off his second straight 100-yard rushing game, despite carrying a total of 13 times in the two outings. And wide receiver Cameron Luke is in a groove after catching seven passes for 92 yards against Southern Utah, and five passes for 162 yards against Texas Southern.

As always, though, the issue for Texas State is defense, which isn’t likely to see a challenge of McNeese State’s ilk for the rest of the year. The Bobcats have allowed 34 or more points in each of their last four games, including 39 against Texas Southern. How will the top offense in the FCS do?

“A lot of the mistakes that we made (against Texas Southern) are correctable,” Wright said.

The question is how many can be corrected before Saturday night.

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