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The Texas State football team lost for the first time this season Saturday, 33-7, at Texas Tech. TEXAS STATE SPORTS INFORMATION PHOTO.

STAFF REPORT

A game effort by the Texas State defense kept the Bobcats close through halftime Saturday at Texas Tech, but the Bobcats couldn’t keep the lid on the end zone in the second half of a 33-7 loss.

On the scoreboard, at least, the game marks progress for the Bobcats, who lost by scores of 50-10 and 58-10 to Tech in the last two years. And if the Bobcats were just a little better, they might have stolen this game. Texas State coach Dennis Franchione certainly tried.

With their first loss of the year, the Bobcats are 2-1 returning to Bobcat Stadium next Saturday against Wyoming (7 p.m.). No. 25 Texas Tech, 4-0, has a bye next week.

Working with an offense that has yet to reveal a reliable, go-to weapon, and having nothing to lose, anyway, Franchione took every risk. None of them went Texas State’s way.

In the second quarter, Franchione went for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the three. Rather than take three points, Franchione went for six and ended up with nothing.

That happened with 6:01 left in the first half and the Bobcats down, 10-0. By then, the Texas State offense already had a lot of explaining to do, having already failed from the Texas Tech one and having given away another touchdown by fumbling deep in its own end. At no point in this game did the Texas State offense give even the impression of equality with the Tech defense.

In the first half, the Bobcats mustered 85 yards in 31 plays. In the second half, the Bobcats gained 155 yards in 37 plays. The difference was one play, the one play the Bobcats broke all day, a 49-yard touchdown run by Robert Lowe coming out of the second-half kickoff. Suddenly, the Bobcats were down only 13-7 on the road against a Top 25 team that’s been beating them by 40 points or more.

Playing with house money, Franchione doubled down, calling for an onside kick. But the kick didn’t go the required 10 yards, and Tech had the ball at Texas State’s 44. The Bobcats had already put a lot on their defense, and this time they didn’t hold. Tech hit a 39-yard pass from Davis Webb to Brad Marquez to the Texas State five. Webb to Eric Ward scored the touchdown from the four. Texas Tech, 20-7.

The Texas State offense didn’t have another big play. The Bobcats had only one first down the next four times they touched the ball. By then, Texas Tech took advantage of another Texas State wager for a short-field touchdown. On the very first play of the fourth quarter, Texas Tech sniffed out a fake Texas State punt at the Bobcat 29. The Red Raiders took over at the 24 after tackling Ben Ijah for a five-yard loss. What happens in Lubbock stays in Lubbock. Webb to Marquez for 10 yards scored another touchdown, giving Tech its final 33-7 lead.

Despite a Jones AT&T Stadium record of 60,997 on hand, the call to beat Texas State by 40 again did not stir the Red Raiders, who waited until Texas State proved it could hang around for a half. The Bobcats proved it with their defense, which denied Tech touchdowns on all three of its first-half trips to the red zone. Texas Tech settled for two field goals and gave it up the other time on downs.

Defensively, the Bobcats gave up 226 yards in each half. But the defense allowed no touchdowns in the first half and two touchdowns in the second half — both of those on short fields after the Bobcats gambled, and lost, in the kicking game.

Additionally, Bobcat defenders produced two interceptions in the first half, each time setting up the offense in good position. The defensive effort by Texas State was good enough to win. Giving up yards, the Bobcats made up for it by holding their goal line and forcing turnovers.

Offensively, though, the Bobcats were disastrous in the first half, even damaging. Twice, the Bobcats had fresh downs at the Texas Tech one, and they scored neither time. In the second quarter, after the Texas State defense stopped the Red Raiders on downs at the Bobcat 16, Texas Tech running back Terrence Franks gave it right back with a fumble at the nine. Tech’s Will Smith recovered and ran it in for a touchdown, giving Tech a 10-0 lead.

When the offense chokes up that badly right after the defense has come up that big, it’s not typically a high moment for team spirit. But that sequence pretty well defined the first half, at the end of which Tech held a 13-0 lead. If the Bobcats had been able to run for a yard on the goal line a couple of times and then refrained from giving up a touchdown, they would have led, 14-6, even though Texas Tech was beating them up and down in the box score.

That much was oddly promising, but it was only half of a football game. Texas Tech had answers in the second half, scoring four of the next five times it had the football.

Lots of hypotheticals present themselves, and a game can change on any of them. But only if two teams close enough. After two years of being blown out by Tech, the Bobcats can point to that much progress. They were four or five “ifs” from winning this game. It’s a lot closer than six touchdowns.

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