Texas State’s football team has won three straight games, all of them challenges in their own ways, entering Saturday evening’s game at Central Arkansas (6 p.m.).
Right now, the challenge is clear, just as it was a week ago for the Bobcats when Stephen F. Austin brought the top Football Championship Series offense to Bobcat Stadium. Win this one, then worry about the next.
But they’re all a little different.
Last week, facing the gun-slinging SFA offense, the Bobcats had to play a defensive game in open space. They responded well, hurrying SFA quarterback Jeremy Moses eight times, sacking him once and intercepting him twice.
Now, comes a game at Central Arkansas, where the Bobcats will have to defend the run. Central Arkansas runs the ball for 173.6 yards per game and the offense totals 408.2 yards per game. The Bobcat defense gives up about that much per game, an average of 407.5 yards.
The Bears give the ball to running backs Brent Grimes or Leonard Ceasar about 25 times per game. Quarterback Robbie Park will throw the ball for Central Arkansas, but not so much to move the offense as to keep it going.
“It’s a bigger match in a smaller ring,” said Texas State defensive coordinator Fred Bleil about the going at Central Arkansas’ running attack after defending SFA’s passing attack.
The Bobcats, 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the Southland Conference, are in a three-way tie for first place with SFA, McNeese State and Southeastern Louisiana, all of which are 3-1 in the league. If the Bobcats can win out and someone beats Southeastern Louisiana, then they will win their second straight Southland Conference championship.
The Bobcats could still win the league if they lose Saturday’s game, but they would have to win their last two games at home against McNeese State and Sam Houston State, then hope to finish in the first-place tie with anyone but Southeastern Louisiana or Central Arkansas.
The Bobcats have picked up their pass defense, allowing 149.0 passing yards per game in the last three weeks. Two of those opponents, Nicholls State and Northwestern State, aren’t good passing teams, but SFA certainly is. The question is whether Texas State can stop the run against Central Arkansas. In four Southland Conference games, the Bobcats have allowed 903 yards in 163 rushing attempts, an average of 5.6 yards per carry.
Against hard-running but losing teams like Nicholls and Northwestern, the Bobcats could make stands when necessary. Against a better established operation like Central Arkansas, that remains to be seen.
For Bobcats head coach Brad Wright, it’s all really much simpler than all that.
“The (Southland Conference) games where we played for four quarters, we won, and the one we didn’t, we lost,” Wright said.
Once again, Texas State will need its offense to operate at a high level. With running back Karrington Bush out for the season, the Bobcats increasingly use the running attack to keep opposing offenses honest, but the rely on quarterback Bradley George to move the team with his arm.
The Bobcats are averaging 427.0 offensive yards per game, passing for 283.2 of them. George has completed 186 of 292 passes (63.7 percent) for 2,213 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Wide receiver Da’Marcus Griggs has emerged as George’s top receiver with 61 catches for 692 yards and six touchdowns.Email | Print