Special teams badly let the Texas State football team down Saturday night, which kept the Bobcats from putting away Nicholls State when they had a chance.
As a result, Nicholls State hung around long enough to force overtime, eventually prevailing, 47-45, in four overtimes at Bobcat Stadium.
The loss dropped Texas State to 0-2 in the Southland Conference, almost fatally damaging any chance that it can win the league. Overall, the Bobcats fell to 3-3 after losing two straight games against teams that entered those games a combined 2-7. The loss will certainly drop the Bobcats from their No. 22 position in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) coaches poll.
“I told our guys, ‘It’s time to check where we are,’ ” Texas State coach Brad Wright said after Saturday’s game.
For the second straight week, the Bobcats lost even though Wright said the effort was fine. Saturday night, though, effort sometimes manifested bone-headed moments that at least kept the Colonels breathing, and sometimes handed them touchdowns.
Texas State’s Da’Marcus Griggs fumbled the first Nicholls punt of the game at his own 14, with Jordan Piper recovering for Nicholls. Three plays later, Nicholls quarterback LaQuint Caston ran eight yards for a touchdown to give the Colonels a 7-0 lead.
In the third quarter, Nicholls State’s Chika Madu blocked a 35-yard field goal attempt by Texas State’s Justin Garelick. Bobby Felder recovered for the Colonels at the 30 and ran it all the way back for a touchdown, giving the Colonels a 14-7 lead.
The Bobcats were penalized seven times for 138 yards, including three penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct, late hitting among them. Nicholls State fumbled four times, and the Bobcats couldn’t jump on any of them. The Bobcats also missed, in regulation time, two field goal attempts of less than 40 yards.
Along with the goofs, at least one very troubling structural problem emerged for Texas State. For the second straight week, a Southland Conference team completely took away the Bobcats’ running attack, which bodes poorly for a team with an inconsistent defense and a freshman quarterback.
Texas State rushed for only 89 yards in 38 attempts against Nicholls. In two league games, the Bobcats have rushed for a total of 190 yards in 63 tries, barely three yards per carry. In the first half Saturday, the Bobcats rushed for only 17 yards in 14 attempts.
League opponents apparently have decided they will make freshman quarterback Tyler Arndt beat them, and Arndt played well enough to do it Saturday night, finishing with 25 completions in 39 tries for 348 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Even subtracting the overtimes, he was 21 for 29 for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Griggs had a monster game, making 11 catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns.
But league opponents also have ripped up Texas State’s pass protection. Arndt took four sacks against Nicholls and now has been sacked seven times in the last five quarters.
Meanwhile, Caston gave the Texas State pass defense fits by running out of pressure. Caston completed 11 of 21 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing 28 times for 137 yards, often just evading the pass rush.
Texas State outgained Nicholls State, 437 yards to 284 yards. But offense and defense didn’t decide this game so much as special teams and field position. Overtimes included, Nicholls State scored six touchdowns without ever moving the ball more than 37 yards. On only three possessions all night did Nicholls keep the ball for at least 35 yards.
Like their other two touchdowns, the Colonels’ third came on a short field. The Bobcats had stopped Nicholls on fourth and goal from the Texas State nine with a 21-14 lead and 4:54 remaining. At that point, a couple first downs and a punt probably would have put the game away for the Bobcats. But the Bobcats went nowhere.
Dexter Imade ran for a yard, Arndt ran for a yard, then Arndt threw an incomplete pass before Ben Follis hit a 38-yard punt and Felder returned it 11 yards to the Texas State 37 with 3:14 left.
On the next two plays, Caston ran out of trouble for gains of 10 and 18 yards to the Texas State nine, then Caston connected with Joshua Warren for seven yards to the two. The plot thickened as the Bobcats stopped Jesse Turner for a loss of one, setting up third and goal as Nicholls called timeout with 1:03 left.
On the next play, Texas State stopped Turner for a loss of another yard, and it appeared the Bobcats might be on the verge of prevailing on two consecutive goal-line stands in the fourth quarter. But Caston zipped a four-yard touchdown pass to Kenyad Blair with 13 seconds remaining, and the game was destined for overtime at 21-21.
The teams traded like scores until they were tied, 39-39, through three overtimes. Taking the ball first in the fourth overtime, Texas State scored in three plays to take a 45-39 lead. However, Arndt’s pass for the mandatory two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete.
Nicholls returned the score in four plays, hitting the touchdown with Caston’s two-yard pass to Warren. Nicholls then succeeded on its two-point try, winning the game when Caston passed to Chucky Nichols for the duece.
With that, the Nicholls players stormed the Texas State sideline and claimed the paddle that has changed hands between these teams ever since they played through the 1998 flood in San Marcos. Next, the Nicholls players sat in the middle of the field and made as if to be rowing a boat. The Bobcats had won the paddle the last two seasons.
“We had flashbacks all this week of them rowing the paddle on our field (after Texas State won at Nicholls last year),” Felder said.
The win improved Nicholls State to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the Southland Conference, giving new head coach Charlie Stubbs his first win in the league.Email | Print