The most uplifting remark that can be made about Texas State’s remaining football schedule is that it’s mostly at home.
Perhaps Saturday’s homecoming game against Stephen F. Austin (SFA) at Bobcat Stadium (2 p.m.) could stimulate a run of big wins, which needs to happen if the Bobcats are to advance to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs.
The Bobcats are 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the Southland Conference. They’re tied at 2-1 with McNeese State, Central Arkansas and Southeastern Louisiana. SFA leads everyone at 3-0, not to mention 6-1 overall. So, the SFA game presents Texas State with a chance to tie for the lead, in which case the Bobcats would go the final three games in some control of their fate. If the Bobcats lose to SFA, they would be two games down, plus a tiebreaker, with three weeks left.
Following Saturday’s game, the Bobcats go to Central Arkansas next week before closing the regular season at home with two other challenging games against nationally-ranked McNeese State and fierce rival Sam Houston State.
It’s all too much to really think about. But the Bobcats really are in a one-at-a-time position, which might help keep the largeness of the task from eating them up. SFA is the game to emphasize right now, not least because SFA is the toughest game in this row.
“If you’re over-looking a team that’s 6-1, something is wrong,” Texas State coach Brad Wright said.
SFA leads the FCS nation in scoring at 44.4 points per game, leads the nation in passing with 360.3, and ranks second in total offense and passing efficiency (489.9 yards average and a rating of 164.99, respectively). The Lumberjacks rank 15th nationally by the FCS coaches and 11th by The Sports Network.
Last year, dealing with SFA was a matter of dealing with quarterback Jeremy Moses, who is fourth nationally in total offense (323.0 yards per game) and ninth in passing efficiency (155.36) in his junior season.
Now, the Lumberjacks are even better, because they’ve got defensive adornments, particularly along the line. SFA is 20th nationally against the run, allowing 96.7 yards per game. SFA also leads the Southland Conference in total defense (293.7 yards per game) and pass efficiency defense (100.9 rating). Credit a defensive line that far and away leads the Southland Conference with 26 sacks (Central Arkansas is next with 17).
The key for Texas State figures to be the performance of its own defensive line. Moses is throwing 40 passes per game and completing 26.4 of them for 318.1 yards with 3.6 touchdowns against 1.3 interceptions.
“We’ve got to put pressure on a quarterback who is going to throw 55 or 60 times,” Wright said,
The Bobcats have not been noted positively for their pass defense this year. They’ve made only four interceptions and ten sacks in seven games, so the defense makes a big play against the opposing passer twice per game.
As much as fans might complain about the Texas State pass defense, the Bobcats are no worse than middle of the pack by Southland standards. The Bobcats are fifth of eight in the league’s pass defense rankings, allowing 225.4 yards per game. In passing efficiency ranking, the defense rates fifth at 135.1.
Moses hails from Baytown Lee, for whom he once threw for 450 yards and three touchdowns against Galena Park North Shore on a broken leg. He walked right into SFA and tore the league apart from his second start as a freshman, when he completed 41 of 59 for 508 yards and three touchdowns.
Last year, Moses threw the ball 598 times, completing 352 for 4,026 yards and 41 touchdowns. In a game against Sam Houston State, he completed 57 of 85 to set NCAA single-game records.
This year, Moses isn’t slinging the ball quite as much, but he’s in the national leaders. Wright said “accuracy, and being in his third year in the system,” account for Moses’ proficiency.
Texas State quarterback Bradley George is right behind Moses among Southland quarterbacks, second in the league with 272.9 yards per game and second in attempts at 251.
For the Bobcats to win Saturday against SFA, it figures that George and the Texas State defense will both have to be better than Moses.