It was about a year ago at this time when football started to change at Texas State.
The date was Oct. 4, 2008. The Bobcats needed a hug, though not nearly as much as they needed their quarterback. Their previous game was a nightmare, a 34-20 loss at home against Southern Utah, which finished 0-11 in 2007. The quarterback, Bradley George, performed so poorly in the first two games that he didn’t even throw a pass in the third, and then gave a mediocre show in the Southern Utah game, completing 9 of 18 passes.
So, the Bobcats were 2-2, apparently headed for the usual losing season, when Texas Southern showed up at Bobcat Stadium on the first Saturday of October behind quarterback Bobby Reid, who had transferred from Oklahoma State. Texas State head coach Brad Wright later said he was so worried about his ball club that he threw up before the game.
Again, the Bobcats struggled to take ownership, and the game sat in a 14-14 tie in the second quarter. Texas State starting quarterback Clint Toon went to the bench with a sore elbow.
And, then, a star was reborn. George came off the bench to throw three touchdown passes in the last eight minutes of the first half, pushing the Bobcats to a 35-20 halftime lead. George finished by completing 14 of 17 passes for 281 yards without an interception in a 63-39 win.
Thus began this new era of good feeling in Texas State football. A week later, the Bobcats went to McNeese State and knocked off the third-ranked Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team in the country, 45-42. The Bobcats won six of their final eight regular season games and went to the NCAA playoffs for the second time in four years.
Now, the Bobcats are a top 20 FCS program, ever more credibly pointing towards the bowl level. They lost, 56-21, at Texas Christian last week, but they became the first visitor to score than many at TCU in two years.
“We had chances to make some plays in all three phases of the game,” Wright said. “We made a couple, but we didn’t make enough.”
Texas Southern, 1-2, returns to Bobcat Stadium Saturday night (6 p.m.) under a much different scenario. Though Wright said Texas Southern is “extremely talented,” the Tigers don’t appear to pose as much of a threat, not least of all because the Bobcats are more solid.
Reed has used up his eligibility and been replaced by Arvell Nelson and Gino Simoni, who have combined for 683 passing yards in three games. In those three games, though, the Tigers have rushed for only 107 yards in 70 attempts.
(Note of caution: Southern Utah entered last year’s game at Bobcat Stadium averaging only 21.25 rushing yards per game and 0.9 yards per carry. Against Texas State, the Thunderbirds rushed 42 times for 199 yards.)
But here’s the biggest difference: Bradley George. A year ago, George was just trying to win back his position when Texas Southern came to town. Saturday, it will be Texas Southern against whom George will attempt to become the all-time leader in Texas State passing yardage.
With 6,962 career passing yards, the Texas State senior needs 245 to pass Barrick Nealy (7,206) on the school’s all-time passing yardage list.
In two games this year, one of which came against one of the stiffest defenses in the upper level, George is averaging 263.5 passing yards. If he maintains that average through the regular season, he would blow past Nealy (8,933) for the school’s career total offense record with 9,334, which would place him second all-time in Southland Conference passing yardage. Central Arkansas’s Nathan Brown ended his career last year with 10,558 passing yards.
Beyond all that, though, the Bobcats, at 1-1, could use a win after TCU tested their ability to take a licking. And Texas Southern enters the game looking fundamentally challenged.
In addition to their lack of production in the running game, the Tigers are penalty prone. Even in last week’s 75-6 win against Texas College, they were penalized 22 times for 207 yards. In their opening 17-7 loss to Prairie View A&M, the Tigers took 20 penalties for 137 yards.
But Wright is quick to remind that the Tigers are in their second year under head coach Johnnie Cole, who is 5-10 at Texas Southern. At some point, the operation must solidify.
“Year Two is always better than Year One,” Wright said.
This year at this time certainly seems better than last year at this time for the Bobcats, who started that turnabout against Saturday’s opponent.Email | Print