By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
As the unfolding saga of Texas State football suggests, mental toughness comes in many forms.
Most obviously, it consists in bouncing back from adversity, which the Texas State Bobcats have demonstrated in the last two weeks. Following their remarkable 34-20 loss to home to unheralded Southern Utah on Sept. 27, the Bobcats responded with a 63-39 win against Texas Southern, then added to it with their signature win of the season last Saturday, a 45-42 win at No. 3 McNeese State.
So, the Bobcats can handle adversity. Now, can they handle prosperity?
As it happens, that loss to Southern Utah came on the heels of their 38-35 win at Northern Colorado, their first non-conference road victory since 2001. After the Southern Utah loss, Texas State coach Brad Wright allowed that his team wasn’t mentally ready to play.
Today at 3 p.m., the Bobcats are scheduled to lineup today against Central Arkansas at Bobcat Stadium. The Bobcats are 4-2 overall and 1-0 in the Southland Conference, tied for the early lead with Central Arkansas, Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin. And suddenly, it would seem, the Bobcats are on a psychological tightrope.
Among his concerns expressed earlier this week, Wright mentioned that his players have to be cautious about accepting congratulations for the win against McNeese State. But at the same time the players are supposed to curb that enthusiasm, they certainly can’t low-key today’s game, which is worth no less than the far inside track for the Southland Conference championship and the NCAA playoff berth that would come with it.
So, the Bobcat faithful wait with bated breath to see how their football warriors will perform in an important game right after an important win.
“We’ll have turned the corner, in my mind,” Wright said, “if we have a great week of practice and play well on Saturday.”
Playing well is, of course, the most or least that a coach can ask of his players. Winning and losing can go with a bounce of the ball, a puff of the wind or a referee’s whistle. In other words, it often falls to chance in a close game. But playing well gives the team its best chance.
And the Bobcats certainly will have to play well against another Southland Conference opponent that fits its own profile of explosive offense and vulnerable defense. Central Arkansas’ league opener last week went much like Texas State’s. The Bears beat Sam Houston State, 48-46, despite allowing 575 yards of offense.
Central Arkansas quarterback Nathan Brown accounted for the majority of his team’s 413 offensive yards by completing 20 of 28 passes for 269 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Behind Brown’s pass efficiency rating of 179.44, the Bears are 5-1 overall and ranked No. 13 in The Sports Network and Football Championship Subdivision coaches polls.
While the Bears average 454.8 offensive yards per game, they also allow 406.8 yards per game. But the Bears do their best to keep their defense out of trouble. They’re averaging 42.1 yards per punt and have made only six turnovers in their six games. In 184 passing attempts, Brown has thrown one interception.
The Bobcats are riding high with the return to form of quarterback Bradley George, who completed 14 of 17 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns in the win against McNeese State. Meanwhile, Karrington Bush is putting together a monster season with 539 rushing yards, 571 return yards and 91 receiving yards. Cameron Luke leads the receivers with 35 catches for 654 yards and ten touchdowns.
However, the Texas State defense continues its schooling in the conference of hard knocks. McNeese State rang up 572 yards against the Bobcats, becoming the third team in the last four weeks to surpass 570 yards against the Texas State defense. The Cowboys went at it a little differently, though, rushing for 264 yards, the high this season against Texas State.
By form, this game will be a very high scoring affair. It’s likely to come down to the last team with the ball. That is, if the Bobcats can navigate the psychological tightrope and meet Wright’s requirements for turning the corner.Email | Print