Texas State freshman quarterback Tyler Arndt is fourth in the Southland Conference with 199.5 yards per game in total offense. Texas State sports information graphic.
Now that the annual appetizers are out of the way, it’s time to sit down to Texas State’s first real dish of the 2010 football season, a visit from a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) contender that will tell us something about where the Bobcats really stand.
Cal Poly comes to Bobcat Stadium Saturday (6 p.m.) ranked No. 17 by The Sports Network/Fathead.com media poll and No. 18 by the FCS coaches poll. The Mustangs upset top-ranked Montana, 35-33, last Saturday, despite losing their starting quarterback to injury.
Between previous opponents Houston and Southern Arkansas, the Bobcats already have faced the best and worst of offenses, but they haven’t faced the spread option offense that’s coming to town with Cal Poly. The Mustangs have, so far, emphasized the option side, rushing for 460 yards against 217 passing yards in their first two games.
“They’re the real deal,” Texas State coach Brad Wright said. “You’ve got to get good at defending the option in a hurry.”
Wright said the Cal Poly spread option is like the offense run for years by Southland Conference rival Nicholls State, but the Bobcats won’t see it again this year because Nicholls is going to a downfield passing game.
The Bobcats haven’t pulled any surprises, so far. They were dominated, 68-28, at Houston and dominated in a 31-17 win at home against Southern Arkansas. Arguably, they were so dominant against Southern Arkansas that they even scored the Southern Arkansas points, setting them up deep in their own territory with a botched punt, a fumbled kickoff and an interception returned for a touchdown.
Wright said Wednesday that the Bobcats have come back from the Southern Arkansas game with good focus. Any coach will tell you that players respond best when they’ve won and have obvious work to do, which could bode well for the Bobcats Saturday.
“You can pretty much bet the ranch that when you have bad practices, you’re not going to play too well,” Wright said.
Wright said Cal Poly has moved away from the Double-Eagle Flex defense, made famous at Arizona as “Desert Swarm.” With one of that defense’s architects, Rich Ellerson, moved on to Army, Cal Poly has gone to a multiple 4-3 defense.
Texas State freshman quarterback Tyler Arndt solidified his position last week, rebounding from an interception return for a touchdown to lead four touchdown drives. Through two weeks of the season, Arndt is fourth in the Southland Conference with 199.5 yards per game of total offense.
The Bobcats allowed only 193 total yards to Southern Arkansas. Cal Poly is somewhere near the middle of the very broad range between Houston’s record-setting offense and the very underwhelming Southern Arkansas offense. The Mustangs average 338.5 yards per game.
Cal Poly is unlikely to use starting quarterback Tony Smith, who has been removed from both of the team’s games due to the effects of a head injury. Last week, though, Doug Shumway came off the bench to go three-for-three for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Shumway also carried nine times for 22 yards against Montana. The Mustangs have spread the running game around. Their leading rushers are Mark Rodgers (119 yards this season), Smith (116 yards) and Jake Romanelli (112 yards).
If the previous two games for each team is an indication, it would be easy to predict how the box score will look after Saturday’s game. The Bobcats have averaged 357.5 yards on offense, while the Cal Poly defense has allowed an average of 358.5 yards. The Cal Poly offense has averaged 338.5 yards, while the Texas State defense has allowed 345.0 yards per game.
Texas State running back Karrington Bush appears to be making a strong comeback, which is likely to be tested by Cal Poly. After gaining 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons, a knee injury set Bush back last season. This year, Bush has put up 75 rushing yards against Houston and 100 against Southern Arkansas.
Wright said running back Dexter Imade is likely to play again Saturday after sitting out the Southern Arkansas game with an injury. Imade rushed for 73 yards against Houston.
Besides Arndt, the biggest yard maker so far for Texas State has been wide receiver Da’Marcus Griggs, who has caught 11 passes for 149 yards, returned six punts for 116 yards and returned one kickoff for 24 yards, giving him 289 yards in 18 touches (16.1 yard average).
Texas State is 2-1 historically against Cal Poly, and both wins were historic performances at Bobcat Stadium. On Dec. 3, 2005, the Bobcats beat Cal Poly, 14-7, in the second round of the NCAA playoffs. On Sept. 1, 2007, the Bobcats won, 38-35, in Wright’s first game as head coach.
Last year, the Bobcats were 2-1 against teams ranked in the FCS. They beat No. 11 Stephen F. Austin, 28-7, at Bobcat Stadium, and defeated No. 19 Central Arkansas, 27-24, on the road. Later, the Bobcats lost, 30-27, to No. 10 McNeese State at Bobcat Stadium.