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

September 6th, 2009
Bobcats start strong, cruise to win opener

After Saturday night’s 48-28 win against Angelo Stadium at Bobcat Stadium Saturday night, Texas State coach Brad Wright said the team will keep improving. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

By BILL PETERSON
Executive Editor

Texas State started the new football season worthy of a playoff team Saturday night, quickly dropping Division II visitor Angelo State into a deep hole and cruising to a 48-28 win at Bobcat Stadium, then picking through what went wrong in a 20-point win.

The game partially illustrated the difference between a team that’s ready to play and one that isn’t. The team that isn’t ready, like Texas State in last year’s opening 21-14 win against Angelo State, fights to a tense ending. The team that’s ready, like Texas State in this year’s opener, guards against complacency from a more commanding position, as the problem doesn’t arrive until a comfortable lead has been built.

Needless to say, the team that comes out ready to play is the easier winner. But it’s still a long way from a perfect team, and the Bobcats know it. For a group that just won by three touchdowns, the leadership spoke a lot more about work to be done and problems to fix than about enjoying the spoils of victory.

“There’s really no excuse for it,” said senior cornerback Will Thompson, lamenting that Angelo State scored three touchdowns in the last 16 minutes after the game was well out of hand. “We’ve got to tighten things down.”

Said Texas State quarterback Bradley George, “We still have a ways to go. It’s our third year at running this offense, but it’s also our first game of the season.”

That first game produced 463 total yards for Texas State as George completed 18 of 27 passes for 328 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Though running back Karrington Bush played in only the first series before sustaining a knee injury, the Bobcats still ran on 60 percent of their snaps, with a conglomeration of seven other rushers combining for 124 yards in 35 attempts.

Texas State head coach Brad Wright said Bush will have his left knee examined and a determination will be made in due time. As it happens, the Bobcats are in the unusual circumstance of a bye week right off the opener, which, Wright noted, could be advantageous for Bush.

“We’re going to live and learn,” Wright said.

The Texas State defense could also take a bow for the majority of its performance. Through three quarters, Angelo State netted only 53 yards in 20 rushing attempts. Though the Rams scored three offensive touchdowns, they worked hard for all of them, even when Texas State relaxed with a comfortable lead. The Angelo touchdown drives went for 75 yards in 10 plays, 68 yards in six plays and 80 yards in nine plays.

So, the night ended for Texas State with a solid win and the constructive self-criticism that goes with it. The day began with pomp, ceremony and celebration, which the actual beginning of football season brought back to reality.

Befitting the fast progress evident in the Texas State program, well-resourced alums Jerry and Linda Fields of Houston presented the university with a $6 million donation for the athletic department early Saturday afternoon. In appreciation of the contribution, the university named Bobcat Stadium’s upgraded west side the Jerry D. and Linda Gregg Fields Bobcat Stadium West Side Complex.

The stadium opened its $17 million upgrade Saturday, initiating 15 luxury suites and 450 club seats that abut a nicely appointed bar and buffet area. And the Bobcats came out with an upgraded performance worthy of their upgraded stadium, looking like 17 million bucks as they rolled to 214 offensive yards in the first quarter.

At halftime, the Bobcats basically had the game won, leading 27-7 with 327 total yards against only 100 for Angelo State. The Texas State defense, which generally provided no chance to win 15 games ago, didn’t give up a touchdown until 50 seconds remained in the third quarter.

Even with that Angelo State touchdown, the Bobcats led, 34-14, and not a doubt remained in the refurbished stadium that the home team was on its way to victory. So, the two teams traded two touchdowns each in the fourth quarter, but the guts of this game were unchanged.

In the end, the game gave the Bobcats a win while also providing Wright with a measure of pedogocical leverage and exposing areas for improvement. And that’s about what one would want in an opener, especially considering that the Bobcats played a reasonably clean game, making two turnovers and taking five penalties for 31 yards.

On the up side, the Bobcats came out so well that they really only needed to play for about three quarters to win this game. On the down side, the Bobcats really only played for about three quarters.

“The good teams go for four quarters, and we didn’t do that,” Wright said. “We have the potential to be a good team. The good teams understand what it takes. We have to stay focused. You can’t stop.”

For all the lights and sounds of the Texas State offense, the Bobcats started the game by establishing physical dominance with their offensive line, which averages 300 pounds across. The Bobcats pounded down field off the opening kick, mostly alternating rushes by Bush and Cedric Alexander, though mixing in a 19-yard pass from George to Da’Marcus Griggs that put the ball on the Angelo State ten with a first down.

Three plays later, the Bobcats faced fourth and goal at the two, prompting Wright to set an assertive tone for his football team by going for the touchdown. George and Griggs ratified Wright’s decision, hooking up for a two-yard touchdown pass that gave Texas State its first lead of the season.

That lead soon dissipated, due to a breakdown in kickoff coverage. Garrett Tidwell returned the ensuing kick 96 yards for an Angelo touchdown, tying the game at 7-7. Even worse, George threw an interception on the very next play from scrimmage, setting up the Rams at their own 39.

However, the most beneficial upgrade in the entire Texas State operation lies in the mental aspects of the game, and the Bobcats showed as much forthwith. They promptly stopped Angelo State, regained the ball on a touchback after a punt, then set about taking this game to the win column.

George threw 16 yards to Darren Dillard, 29 yards to Corey Scott and 19 yards to Griggs, putting Texas State on the Angelo State 10. Alexander then ran around the left corner on a reverse play, scoring a touchdown that gave Texas State a 14-7 lead.

Texas State then forced another punt and set up at its own 25. George threw on second down to Alvaro Garcia, who ran for most of a 71-yard gain to the Angelo State four. Two plays later, Trey Hampton ran a yard for a touchdown to make it 21-7 with 57 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Bobcats added on with 6:17 left in the first half, when George connected with Alexander for a 48-yard touchdown pass to make it 27-7. The score stood there for halftime, at which point George had completed 12 of 16 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Texas State defense held Angelo State to six first-half first downs.

“They’ve got a good offense,” Angelo State coach Dale Carr said. “I thought their offensive line did a good job of run blocking and pass blocking.”

With 4:49 left in the third quarter, Frank Reddic ran six yards for a Texas State touchdown, capping an eight-play, 60-yard drive that upped the Bobcats’ lead to 34-7.

From that point, Angelo State began moving offensively, but the Bobcats answered. After Pete Dwight ran two yards for an Angelo State touchdown to make it 34-14 with 50 seconds left in the third quarter, Angelo State quarterback Josh Neiswander threw a five-yard touchdown pass to V’Keon Lacey, narrowing the gap to 34-21 with 10:30 left in the game.

Angelo State came right back with an onside kick, but Dillard moved up to take it, then motored to the end zone for a Texas State touchdown, putting the Bobcats’ lead back up to 20 at 41-21 with 10:23 left.

“That was the back breaker,” Carr said.

But Angelo kept turning its legs. The Rams took the next possession down for another score, led by Neiswander’s 39-yard pass to Lacey that put the ball on the Texas State 27. Four plays later, Neiswander threw a 14-yard touchdown to Brandan Ritchey, making it 41-28 with 8:21 left.

But Texas State salted it away with another touchdown drive, going 60 yards in ten plays to score on George’s one-yard pass to Kyle Anderson with 3:33 left. At that point, the game really was finished.

“I guess the most important thing is that we won and we’re 1-0,” Wright said. “It was a typical first game. I saw a lot of things that need to be fixed, and they will be fixed.”

Off this opener, though, the good news is that the team’s general approach doesn’t appear to need fixing. And that will make all the other fixes that much easier.

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