The Texas State Bobcats celebrated the Southland Conference championship and an NCAA Tournament bid on the field of their rival late Saturday afternoon, but not until they rallied from a 21-0 deficit in the second quarter.
The Bobcats beat Sam Houston State, 48-45 in overtime, when Karrington Bush went five yards for a touchdown on third-and-two for a walk-off win in Huntsville. Of course, the Bobcats didn’t just walk off. They hung around to celebrate the unlikely finish to an unlikely season that started out promising nothing and ended up delivering a conference trophy.
“We’re just happy to be where we are right now,” Texas State coach Brad Wright told KTSW-FM (88.9) after the game. “We’re the Southland champs and we’re going to enjoy that for a bus ride home and find out tomorrow where we go.”
Texas State rallied through the second and third quarters to take a 35-28 lead into the final period. But Sam Houston forced overtime when quarterback Rhett Bomar threw 28 yards to Jason Madkins to tie it, 42-42, with four seconds left.
The Texas State victory capped a bracing seven-week run through the Southland Conference with a 5-2 league record, assuring that the Bobcats could finish no worse than in a first-place tie with McNeese State. Texas State won, 45-42, at McNeese on Oct. 4 to secure the tiebreaker. Later Saturday, the Bobcats won the league title outright as McNeese lost, 47-30, at Central Arkansas and fell to 4-3 in the league.
Texas State’s first playoff assignment will be announced at 6 p.m. Sunday on the NCAA’s playoff selection show to be broadcast on ESPNU.
The Bobcats, mostly a doormat in 25 years of Division I football, now have won two conference titles in the last four seasons. The Bobcats won a split championship with Nicholls State in 2005, then advanced all the way to the national semifinals before losing, 40-37, to Northern Iowa at Bobcat Stadium.
The four-year seniors on this year’s team hold the distinction of playing on two conference champions and playoff teams. Such players would have been freshmen, probably little used, in 2005.
“It means so much more to me, being a senior,” said Texas State running back Stan Zwinggi on KTSW-FM. Zwinggi scored the tying touchdown Saturday, doing most of the work on a 91-yard touchdown pass from Bradley George, making it 28-28 with 6:42 left in the third quarter.
With the victory, Texas State improved to 8-4 overall, reaching eight victories in a season for only the second time since 1983, its last year in Division II before going to Division I the next season. The Bobcats finished 9-2 as the Lone Star Conference champions in 1983. The 2005 national semifinal team finished 11-3.
George continued his tear through the last nine weeks Saturday, completing 17 of 30 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns against one interception. George spread the ball around to nine different receivers as he ran his numbers in the last nine games to 157 for 257, 2,375 yards, 24 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Bomar threw 55 times for Sam Houston State, completing 33 for 387 yards and three touchdowns. Bomar’s arm triggered the early Sam Houston lead with touchdown passes of 25 yards to Trey Payne and 20 yards to Madkins, the second making it 21-0.
But the Bobcats responded to their deepest deficit with three straight scores in the second quarter. George started it with a 14-yard touchdown pass to John Gilley, then Andrew Ireland kicked field goals of 30 and 48 yards. The latter brought the Bobcat within 21-13 as time expired in the first half.
Bomar expanded the Sam Houston lead to 28-13 with a 14-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, but the Bobcats responded with three straight touchdowns, including two short runs by Karrington Bush and the long pass to Zwinggi. Bush’s three-yard touchdown carry gave Texas State its first lead, 35-28 with 16 seconds left in the third quarter.
After Bomar ran for a one-yard touchdown to tie the game, 35-35, with 4:16 left, the Bobcats embarked on a long journey down field that ended with Alvin Canady’s two-yard touchdown run, giving them a 42-35 lead with 1:08 remaining.
That proved to be enough time for Bomar, who whipped his team downfield to the 27 yard line with 11 seconds left. Bomar then found Madkins in the end zone with four seconds remaining, forcing the Bobcats to win the game again.
The Bobcats held Sam Houston to a 32-yard field goal by Taylor Wilkins in the top half of the overtime, setting themselves up to win with Bush’s touchdown.
“We regrouped again, and we regrouped again and we scored just a little more than they did,” Wright said.Email | Print