Da’Marcus Griggs takes off on a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown last week in Texas State’s 27-24 win at Stephen F. Austin. The Bobcats play their final home game of the season Saturday against Central Arkansas. Texas State sports information photo.
The Texas State home football schedule began with three straight wins and great promise. But as the Bobcats approach their final home game of the season Saturday against Central Arkansas (2 p.m.), they haven’t won at Bobcat Stadium in five weeks.
The two home losses in that span against Northwestern State and Nicholls State have put the Bobcats in their present fix, trailing the Southland Conference lead by two games with three to go. The Bobcats are 4-4 overall and 1-3 in the Southland Conference.
It’s still too early to calculate the various scenarios under which the Bobcats could still win the league, but it’s not too early to point out that all of those scenarios include the Bobcats winning all of their remaining three games.
So, if you close your eyes and click your heels three times, you can call Saturday’s meeting sort of a playoff game. With a win, the Bobcats will say good bye to their fans for another year while they’re still kicking. With a loss, the Bobcats finish the season on the lonely road to McNeese State and Sam Houston State.
The twists and turns of a football season will be on full display Saturday. For example, fans will finally see the team they thought they were going to see in August, with Tim Hawkins at quarterback. And the team that walked off its own field scratching its head over two straight home losses stands to return with some sense of purpose after last Saturday’s incredible comeback for a 27-24 win at No. 3 Stephen F. Austin (SFA).
Returning to the starting job because of an injury to Tyler Arndt, Hawkins added a much needed dimension to the Texas State running game and led the Bobcats as they turned back a 24-point deficit in the last 9:21. Hawkins rushed for 121 yards in 25 carries and completed 18 of 25 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns — a grand total of 315 yards of total offense. For a quick point of reference, SFA quarterback Jeremy Moses leads the conference and is third nationally in total offense at 319.75 yards per game.
The comeback ratified a strong performance by the Texas State defense, which kept Moses from completing passes downfield. More important, the defense kept Moses and SFA out of the end zone in the second half.
“Hopefully, we get some confidence from it,” Texas State head coach Brad Wright said. “The defense can play hard and know that the offense can put the ball in the end zone.”
The big surprise, considering how the season has gone, is that Hawkins was the quarterback to put the Bobcats into the end zone.
Hawkins had been the heir apparent to Bradley George for more than a year when the 2010 season began at Houston. But Hawkins stunk up the joint, completing one of nine passes for 12 yards with two interceptions and rushing for seven yards in four carries.
By the end of the game, Arndt was off the bench and moving the Bobcats to touchdowns, though they still lost, 68-28. Within days, Arndt was the new starting quarterback.
Between Houston and SFA, Hawkins barely saw the field, throwing two passes and carrying the ball six times. But when his turn came back around, he responded with a big game.
“He had a good week of practice (before the SFA game),” Wright said.
Central Arkansas comes to Bobcat Stadium 5-3 and 2-2 with a 30-23 home win last week against Southeastern Louisiana. The Bears aren’t known for rushing the ball, ranked 81st nationally with 118.38 running yards per game. The name of their game is passing.
Quarterback Nathan Dick has the second best passing statistics in the league, behind Moses, averaging 243.3 yards per game in total offense and running a pass efficiency rating of 127.58, which is 25th nationally and second in the Southland Conference. Wide receiver Kenneth Robey is 12th nationally with 6.75 catches per game.
The Bobcats last won a home game on Sept. 25, when they downed Southern Utah, 42-28. That was before the Southland Conference season started. Then the Bobcats lost at home to Northwestern State and Nicholls State, also losing at Southeastern Louisiana, sending them to their first 0-3 start in the league since 2003.
But their win at SFA gave them life. When the last place team beats the first place team, it bunches up the whole league. Now, SFA, McNeese State and Northwestern State are tied for first at 3-1, while Texas State, Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana are tied for last at 1-3 (of course, the Bobcats would lose that tiebreaker). In between are Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State at 2-2.