By BILL PETERSON
Splitting their four games leading up to the Southland Conference schedule, the Texas State Bobcats now enter that hall of mirrors trying to regain traction as they seek the league’s automatic playoff berth.
The Bobcats will tee up against Southeastern Louisiana (2 p.m.), which is also 2-2, to start the Southland season. According to history, the Bobcats might as well count the win, though the law of averages might object. Texas State has won all 12 meetings between these teams.
Southern Louisiana achieved its two wins the easy way, beating Texas A&M-Commerce and Union College of Kentucky at home by a combined score of 110-27. Then, the Lions took the hard way to two defeats, 52-6 at Mississippi and 44-13 at South Dakota.
The Bobcats come off a head-scratching, 38-16 loss at Southern Utah. The Bobcats had all but tied the game at 14-14, but Alvaro Garcia fumbled as he tried to reach across the goal line. Akeem Anifowoshe recovered for Southern Utah and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown that put Southern Utah ahead, 21-7. The Bobcats couldn’t come back from that punch last Saturday.
Can they come back from it this Saturday? They’ve certainly got a lot to play for as they defend the Southland Conference championship, stamped as the slight favorite for a repeat by the league’s coaches and sports information directors.
If the pre-conference games haven’t necessarily ratified those predictions, they weren’t necessarily supposed to. Give Southern Utah’s clear improvement even before last week’s game, it’s hard to argue that the Bobcats’ loss there was necessarily a deviation from form.
Considering, though, that the Bobcats entered that game in the national rankings, the loss has to count as an upset, so now they’re faced with coming back from a loss that most observers would not have expected. But it’s not quite the gloom that followed last year’s loss to Southern Utah. Nobody’s treating it like a moral disaster.
“Just get back on the horse and ride,” Texas State head coach Brad Wright said, “and we’ve done that so far.”
The major question in front of the Bobcats is the status of running back Karrington Bush, who injured his right knee during the opener against Angelo State and played again at Southern Utah, rushing nine times for 82 yards. Wright said Bush’s availability against Southeastern Louisiana is still to be determined.
“Durability is a question of how long he can last,” Wright said. “This guy is hurt.”
Bush and the other running backs will bear on Texas State’s ability to control the ball, which is about as close to playing defense as most Southland Conference teams can get. Six of the league’s eight teams have given up 5.7 or more yards per snap. Five of those teams are giving up 30 or more points per game, and five league teams are scoring 30 or more per game.
Another central factor for the Bobcats will be the performance of the pass defense, which has allowed 277.75 yards per game, the worst such mark in the league. It so happens that Southeastern Louisiana is passing for 295.5 yards per game, which is second in the league.
If nothing else, the game shapes up as a shootout between two productive quarterbacks – Texas State’s Bradley George and Southeastern Louisiana’s Brian Babin. Among Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) players, George is 17th in total offense with 264.5 yards per game, while Babin is 18th at 263.3.
The entire prelude, of course, amounts to almost nothing. Just about every team in this league can move the ball and score. Nobody is safe in the Southland Conference, especially not the Bobcats, the target in everyone’s scope after winning the league last year.
“One through eight, it doesn’t matter which one you’re playing,” Wright said. “You’d better show up.”Email | Print