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

October 17th, 2009
Bobcats battle for paddle Saturday

STAFF REPORT

The Battle for the Paddle between Texas State and Nicholls State may have enriched the football game for both teams, but it hasn’t made travel to Thibodeaux, LA, any more appetizing for the Bobcats.

Then again, it has given Texas State football coach Brad Wright a different game to talk about.

Unquestionably, last Saturday’s loss to Southeastern Louisiana has changed the weather around the Bobcats, who held a 44-20 lead with ten minutes left and wound up falling, 51-50, in overtime. Not only did that loss raise question as to whether the program is progressing, but it put the Bobcats on a two-game losing streak as they dropped their first league game in defense of the Southland Conference championship.

A season that began in stride following that championship suddenly is hanging in the balance after two straight weeks in which the Bobcats lost games they were expected to win. Two weeks ago, the Bobcats were a Top 20 team in both major Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) polls. Now, the Bobcats aren’t even receiving votes in the coaches poll, and they received only two polling points in the latest media poll (The Sports Network).

“Obviously, we’d like to be better, and we’re working towards that,” Wright said.

The Bobcats now go to Nicholls State, where they haven’t won since 1999, for a 1 p.m. Saturday kickoff. In one of their best all-around games of the 2008 season, the Bobcats beat Nicholls last year, 34-10, at Bobcat Stadium. However, as Wright said, “Who cares?”

As cares go, the Nicholls State triple-option offense is at the top of the list for the Bobcats. The Nicholls version isn’t exactly a work of art. The Colonels have the lowest average per carry in the Southland Conference at 3.5 yards, and five league teams that strive for more balance have more rushing yards.

When Nicholls opened the season at Air Force, the kings of the triple option, the kings notched a 72-0 victory. The Colonels have two other lopsided losses against strong competition. They lost 48-13 at Louisiana Tech, then fell to Ryan Perriloux and FCS No. 13 Jacksonville State, 60-10. The Colonels’ one victory is a lackluster 14-7 win against Duquesne.

But the Texas State defense can’t take anyone for granted after giving up three touchdowns and all three matching two-point conversions in the last ten minutes against Southeastern Louisiana. Opponents are averaging 423.6 yards per game against the Bobcats, including 144.4 on the ground.

Wright said the challenge to defending the option is simply that the team only sees it once per year. But the Bobcats handled it pretty well last year, holding Nicholls State to fewer yards running (118) than passing (120).

“You’ve got to be assignment sound,” Wright said. “You have to cover the quarterback, cover the option and cover the pitch. You have to tackle all of them because, if you don’t, that’s who’s going to get the ball.”

The Colonels (1-4 overall, 0-1 Southland Conference) went with a little of a different twist in a 44-21 loss at Sam Houston State. Nicholls went with redshirt freshman quarterback LaQuinton Caston, who passed for 172 yards.

The Nicholls State defense doesn’t figure to pose much resistance for the Bobcats, allowing 235.8 yards per game in the air and 244.4 yards per game on the ground. The Bobcats have all their weapons intact after running back Karrington Bush returned with 129 yards in 26 carries against Southeastern Louisiana.

The Bobcats enter Saturday’s game with the ninth-ranked FCS passing offense (283.6 yards per game) after reaching a season high with 337 yards behind quarterback Bradley George last week. The Bobcats also are third nationally in FCS scoring with 37-4 points per game.

But the Bobcats, at 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the league, have still lost more than they’ve won. Which says something about the task in front of the Texas State defense.

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