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During his meeting with reporters last week, Texas State football coach Dennis Franchione remembered how Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith tore the Bobcat apart as a freshman two years ago, adding that Smith was a “catalyst.”
Maybe Franchione already had an idea.
Indeed, Franchione ran true freshman quarterback Tyler Jones with the first team early last week, right after the Bobcats returned to town from their 33-7 loss at Texas Tech.
The Bobcats needed a catalyst for their offense. It turned out that they had a freshman quarterback of their own to provide it.
Jones saw his first collegiate action Saturday, starting for the Bobcats against Wyoming at Bobcat Stadium. Jones completed 14 of 18 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown.
Jones did, indeed, catalyze the Texas State offense, and so did the blockers in front of him. And so did a couple of Texas State running backs. And a thunderstorm with lightning, which caused a delay of three hours and 29 minutes in the middle of the game.
The Bobcats beat Wyoming, 42-21, at once pulling a substantial upset (Wyoming was a 12-point favorite), treating Franchione to his 200th career victory and heralding some real possibilities for this team going forward.
The football season on the hill is hereby catalyzed. The Bobcats are 3-1 going to their Sun Belt Conference opener next Saturday at Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL). The Bobcats defense has thunder, which we already knew. Now, the offense has lightning, which we saw for the first time on Saturday (and Sunday).
Of course, the definitive event of this game was the three and a half hour weather delay. Being fair to Wyoming without taking anything from the Bobcats, a three and a half hour weather delay in the middle of a game has got to be a disorienting situation for a road team. It’s stormy weather in a faraway place and, sure, any port in a storm will do, but more than three hours in a visiting locker room during the middle of a football game has got to make players stir crazy. Probably, the resemblance to a rubber room begins to occur after about an hour.
The Cowboys had been in weather delays twice this season before Saturday, but the others weren’t like this. It isn’t simply that the Cowboys were on the road. These are large men of routine, now trapped in quarters where they had never been, and for three hours and 29 minutes. That’s plenty of time for football players to consider that now they’ll be getting home a lot later, definitely in the wee hours of the morning, and some school work or whatever that was planned for Sunday will have to wait … lots of stuff having nothing to do with the game at hand.
The Bobcats were in their own digs. They’re just walking home after this, a little late, but nothing insurmountable. The coaches and players had all their support staff and resources around to keep everyone on point, or at least have a chance of keeping everyone on point.
If the Bobcats wanted to watch video of the game they were in the middle of playing and make adjustments therefrom, they probably could do that. Because the delay occurred in the second quarter, halftime was reduced to eight minutes. But the Bobcats already had three and a half hours, a long day’s worth of practice time, to clean up what they were doing. If they actually wanted to walk through something, they had plenty of time and space. It just had to be a much more manageable situation for the Bobcats mentally.
All that said, the Bobcats cashed it in, and they cashed it in against a good team, the best team they have ever beaten. So, they’ll take a bow, and they certainly deserve it. Wyoming will call the game an aberration and the Bobcats will call it a great victory for their program’s second year of bowl-level football, and they’ll both be right.
The game began at 6:06 p.m. on Saturday and the delay began at 7:02 p.m. The game resumed at 10:31 p.m. and ended at 12:25 a.m. on Sunday.
The clock read 8:34 left in the second quarter of a 7-7 tie when the referees cleared the field and the game managers at Bobcat Stadium cleared the stands. After the delay, the Bobcats scored five touchdowns. Before the delay, Smith completed 10 of 12 passes for Wyoming. After the delay, Smith, a 68 percent passer, completed only 15 of 36 attempts.
Wyoming had the ball first after the weather delay, ending the possession with a punt that pinned Texas State at its own one. As a result, Wyoming later got the ball back at its own 46 and turned it into a touchdown, a five-yard run by Brandon Miller with 3:47 left in the half.
Down, 14-7, the Bobcats later received the ball at their own 49, and that’s when they started to rip it up. The touchdown that tied it, 14-14, at halftime took two plays — a 25-yard pass from Jones to Chris Nutall, and a 26-yard scoring pass from Jones to Ben Ijah.
In the third quarter, Texas State’s Colby Targun intercepted Smith at the home 34 and returned it to the Wyoming 49. Eight plays later, Robert Lowe rushed five yards for a Texas State touchdown to give the Bobcats a 21-14 lead. On the Bobcats’ next possession, they drove 80 yards in seven plays, with Nutall running 22 yards for a touchdown to give them a 28-14 lead with 4:40 left in the quarter. Nutall ran five yards for another touchdown on the fifth play of the fourth quarter, making it 35-14.
Lowe scored Texas State’s first touchdown in the first quarter and its last touchdown on the last play of the game, giving him three touchdowns and 138 yards in his 30 carries. Nutall added 62 yards and two touchdowns in 11 carries, while Jones rushed for 56 yards in seven carries. Jones also spread the ball out to eight different receivers, none of whom made more than three receptions.
The Bobcats finished with 452 yards, more than half of their total in their first three games combined (855). Wyoming entered the game eighth nationally in total offense at 556.3 yards per game, but the Cowboys (3-2) managed only 356 yards against the Texas State defense, which continues making the case that it is a real deal.
The start of this event was witnessed by 22,150, the second largest Texas State football crowd ever. Naturally, the storm encouraged some departures. Perhaps, though, the outcome will encourage more future ticket sales.
Probably, though, a good showing at ULL is really required. If the Bobcats come back from that one 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the Sun Belt when they play Louisiana-Monroe in San Marcos on Oct. 12, the fans almost certainly will show up. Then again, so might the weather.