Texas State kicker Justin Garelick feels the pain of missing an extra point kick in overtime Saturday, ending the Bobcats’ 51-50 overtime loss to Southeastern Louisiana at Bobcat Stadium. Offensive lineman Jonathan Vernon (73) talks to Garelick, while defensive end Travis Houston (8) looks on. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By BILL PETERSON
Two Texas State football teams showed up at Bobcat Stadium Saturday, and one of them was really bad.
Bad enough to blow a 24-point lead in ten minutes, then walk off its own field with a 51-50 overtime loss to Southeastern Louisiana as an inglorious first stab at defending its Southland Conference championship. Bad enough to give up three touchdowns and all three matching two-point conversions in a fold-up of such complete dimensions that it simply couldn’t be explained or understood.
A very good Texas State team showed up, too, and occupied most of the afternoon. That team was good enough to roll up 486 offensive yards in the first 48:12. That team held SLU to 278 total yards in the first 50 minutes, including only 107 through the air. SLU entered the game throwing for 295.5 yards per game.
But the good team’s deeds were quickly buried by the defects of the bad team as the Bobcats sadly transformed from winners to losers, falling to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the SLC. Leading, 44-20, with ten minutes left after playing a solid, commendable ball game for 50 minutes, the Bobcats proceeded to display every conceivable problem in offense, defense and the kicking game.
“We were up, 44-20, and we couldn’t hold onto it,” Texas State coach Brad Wright said. “Obviously, something went wrong … We weren’t able to do what we need to do on offense, we weren’t able to do what we need to do on defense, and we weren’t able to do what we need to do on special teams … They made plays they needed to make. We didn’t.”
During those ten minutes, the Texas State offense totaled 13 plays for 30 yards and two first downs (of which five yards and one first down came by penalty). Quarterback Bradley George, who had completed 26 of 36 passes for 294 yards, proceeded to complete one of seven for 19 yards. Running back Karrington Bush, who had rushed 20 times for 120 yards in his return to full-time duty, proceeded to rush five times for eight yards.
“Trust me,” George said, “it’s tough to swallow.”
Defensively, the Bobcats gave up 176 yards in 21 plays in the last ten minutes as the Lions tore off 15, 20 and 25 yards at a time. SLU faced third down only three times on its last three drives. Two of those were third-and-one, both of which were converted by running back Jasper Ducksworth. The Lions did fail on a third-and-15, only to succeed on fourth-and-15 when quarterback Brian Babin completed a 24-yard pass to Simmie Yarborough at the Texas State one with less than a minute remaining.
On the next play, Ducksworth ran a yard for a touchdown, bringing SLU within 44-42 with 34 seconds left. For just a moment, it appeared the Bobcats averted complete disaster when Babin threw incomplete on the two-point conversion attempt. But the referees flagged Texas State safety Kenneth Hampton for pass interference. Reprieved, SLU succeeded when tight end Yarborough lined up on the right wing, took the ball coming to the left and turned the corner to the end zone.
Along with the rest, the kicking game also failed Texas State, both when the game started to unravel, and at the very end. In the end, the kicking game will take a lot of the blame. An old saw says one-third of all games are decided by the kicking teams. After Saturday, like about one-third of the time, that was easy to believe. But it wasn’t really true. This was a total team collapse.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, as the Bobcats held a 44-28 lead, George completed a 19-yard slant to Alvaro Garcia, giving them a first down at the SLU 34. The Bobcats were primed for at least a field goal. But George wouldn’t complete a pass for the rest of regulation time. Bush ran twice, netting no yards, setting up third and ten. Then, the Bobcats took a delay of game penalty, pushing them back five yards. Then George threw incomplete and the Bobcats set up a punt that stood to pin SLU back deep.
But Stephen Moreaux broke through and blocked the punt for SLU, and the ball rolled all the way back to the Texas State 30. The Lions needed only three plays before Babin threw 14 yards to Yarborough for a touchdown. After Babin threw to Chris Wilson for the conversion, the Lions were within 44-36 with 4:51 left.
In response, the Bobcats went three and out, then punted, so SLU took over at its own 34 with 2:36 left. Thus began the drive during which SLU broke fourth-and-15 to the Texas State one, then tied the game.
So, along came the overtime, during which SLU beat second-and-18 when Babin reached Merrick Lanaux for exactly the right yardage to the Texas State two, even though Lanaux was pinched against the right sideline with three Bobcats surrounding him. On the next play, Ducksworth ran it in, then Jeff Turner hit the PAT, giving SLU a 51-44 lead.
Now it was Texas State’s turn. The Bobcats needed only four plays to score, when George struck Da’Marcus Griggs for a 12-yard touchdown pass. All the remained for the Bobcats to stay alive was for Justin Garelick to make the PAT. But Garelick’s kick struck the left upright and dropped into the end zone, sending the Lions and their small traveling party into an ecstasy such as few football teams have ever known.
“With our offense and our wide receivers, we knew we had to score three times and get two three times,” SLU coach Mike Lucas said. ” … You can’t double cover our wide receivers, because we have too many.”
The Bobcats dominated the first half, taking a 24-13 lead to the break. The Bobcats rambled for 313 yards in the first half, including George’s 206 passing yards as he completed 19 of 27 passes.
From the opening kickoff, Texas State moved the ball, scoring on three of its first four possessions to take a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter. For every SLU score, the Bobcats scored twice, building a 44-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Mishak Rivas went 56 yards with the opening kick to the Southeastern Louisiana 40. The Bobcats marched to the four before settling for Garelick’s 21-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
SLU scored later in the first period, finishing a 51-yard scoring drive when Ducksworth ran 11 yards for a touchdown, giving SLU a 7-3 lead with 4:17 left in the first quarter. But the next 40 minutes went entirely for the Bobcats.
Texas State back-up quarterback Tim Hawkins, George’s likely heir, ran 54 yards around the right corner to give the Bobcats a 10-7 lead less than 30 seconds later. On the Bobcats’ next possession, they went 96 yards in 11 plays, featuring consecutive passes from George to Corey Scott for 19 yards and from George to Daren Dillard for 25 yards, setting the Bobcats on the SLU 21. Bush handled the rest in two carries, the second covering nine yards for a touchdown to make is 17-7 for the Bobcats at 11:49 of the second quarter.
SLU came back on its next possession to score on a nine-play, 77-yard drive ending with Babin’s four-yard touchdown pass to Wilson. But Turner missed the kick, so the Bobcats were up, 17-13. And that lead increased before halftime, when George hit Dillard for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left in the half.
During the first 18 minutes of the second half, the Bobcats appeared to have have brought their hammer, outscoring SLU, 20-7. Bush ran a yard for one touchdown, Alvin Candy ran 16 yards for another and, finally, Bush went six yards to give the Bobcats a 44-20 lead with 11:44 left in the game.
A good bit more than nine out of ten times, the game is over at that point. This one wasn’t.
“We fought, we fought, we fought,” Lucas said.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats puzzled, even though their offense did everything an offense ought to be asked to do. The offense gained 516 yards in regulation time, 203 on the ground. The offense produced a 300-yard passer (George with 313), a 100-yard rusher (Bush, with 128) and two 75-yard receivers (Griggs with 83 and Dillard with 77). The offense rang up 30 first downs.
It still wasn’t enough.
About those last ten minutes, said George, “We should have scored a touchdown, a field goal, anything.”
Or, they could have stopped something. Anything.