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Texas State running back Chris Nutall has rushed for 237 yards this season TEXAS STATE SPORTS INFORMATION

STAFF REPORT

The Texas State football team will dive right into the deepest water of the Sun Belt Conference in its first two weeks in the league.

Saturday, the Bobcats are off to Lafayette, LA, to take on Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL). A week later, the Bobcats will return home to face Louisiana-Monroe (ULM). The two schools in the University of Louisiana system are the co-favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference.

Of course, with wins in each game, the Bobcats would become the league’s front runners.

“Thanks to the powers that be, we get to start conference play with the two best teams in the league, according to the preseason polls,” Texas State coach Dennis Franchione said. “We’ll find out a lot about ourselves … That’s the standard and we get to find out pretty quick where we stack up in this league.”

Saturday’s game will be televised on The CW Austin (KNVA) and on ESPN 3. Kickoff is at 6:07 p.m.

The Bobcats are coming off a crazy, glorious win, their 42-21 triumph against Wyoming that came complete with a three hour, 29 minute weather delay at Bobcat Stadium last Saturday. The win put the Bobcats at 3-1 for the season, making bowl eligibility a distinct possibility. The Bobcats would need to win only three of their remaining eight games to be eligible.

Whether the Bobcats would actually draw a bid under those circumstances depends on numerous other factors, the most important of which is a demonstrated ability to sell tickets and get fans to travel. The winner of the Sun Belt Conference is automatically placed in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl to be played on Dec. 21 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“It’s good to have people talking about us,” Franchione said. “We’re 3-1 at this time, and had we played a little bit better, we would have had a chance in the fourth one. I think beating Wyoming gets people’s attention because of what they’ve been able to accomplish, playing Nebraska at Nebraska as close as they did. Those are good things. We’re going to stay focused on just trying to win number four.”

The positive attributes to emerge from the Wyoming game were another strong output by the defense, and the presence of freshman quarterback Tyler Jones, who ran the offense smoothly in his first college game.

The Bobcats gave up 356 yards against a Wyoming team that had been averaging 556.3 yards per game. The Bobcats now rank 120th out of 123 bowl-level teams by allowing 321.3 passing yards per game. However, that’s a function of the fact that they have played two outstanding passing attacks in Texas Tech and Wyoming, who put the ball up as much as anyone. In fact, the Bobcats have faced 206 passes, more than any other team in the country, even though they have played four games and a good number of teams have played five.

In pass efficiency defense, the Bobcats rank 24th across the country with an opponents passer rating of 107.35. The Bobcats have allowed 6.24 yards per attempt, which is tied for 34th.

On the upside, the Bobcats rank third nationally in rushing defense, allowing only 62.5 yards per game. Opponents have run on the Bobcats only 111 times, which is eighth fewest in the nation. However, the Bobcats’ ranking is quite legitimate, anyway, because they have allowed only 2.25 yards per rushing attempt. Only Michigan State (2.04) has a better mark.

It all adds up to the Bobcats ranking 59th in total defense at 383.8 yards per game.

ULL will present the most balanced offense Texas State has faced all season, ranking 88th in passing yards (212.5) and 32nd in rushing yards (218.5).

“They’re physical, and have a really good quarterback in Terrance Broadway, who is a big, strong, hard runner and a good thrower,” Franchione said. “This is more of a balanced offense between run and pass, so it’s a little bit different than what we have faced. They’re good at both of them.”

Until last Saturday, the Bobcats gave little indication that their offense could match their defense. But Jones appeared to put a jolt into the Texas State offense, completing 14 of 18 passes for 196 yards and rushing for 56 yards.

“There weren’t a lot of flaws in his game technically,” Franchione said. “There were some things step wise, but his presence as a quarterback really brought something to the table.”

The Wyoming game also put running backs Robert Lowe and Chris Nutall somewhat on the map. Both now are past 200 rushing yards, Lowe with 279 yards and Nutall with 237.

“Offensively we played better and minimized our missed assignments,” Franchione said. But the assignment this Saturday is the biggest of all. It’s Game One in their history with the Sun Belt Conference.

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