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Texas State quarterback Tyler Jones will try to bring the Bobcats back Saturday at Bobcat Stadium against Louisiana-Monroe. TEXAS STATE SPORTS INFORMATION PHOTO

STAFF REPORT

From the national statistical rankings, and otherwise, no one is expecting a titan struggle Saturday evening, when the Texas State football team takes on Louisiana-Monroe (ULM) at Bobcat Stadium (6 p.m.).

However, it shapes up as a huge game within the Sun Belt Conference, as each team tries to stay in contention for the league championship, or some share of it.

The Bobcats and ULM each lost Sun Belt openers last week. The Bobcats lost, 48-24, at Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL), which emerged from the day as the clear league favorite. ULM, the league co-favorite according to the preseason coaches poll, lost at home against Western Kentucky, 31-10.

Both teams arew trying to bounce back. A sort of survival is on the line. Both teams are, in fact, tied for last place right now.

The Bobcats will try to regain their footing after their loss at ULL, a complete mismatch. ULL held a 45-3 lead with nearly 20 minutes left in the game.

“We played very poorly in every aspect of the game,” said Texas State coach Dennis Franchione before pointing out that Brandon Smith later returned kickoffs for 86 and 100 yards to score the Bobcats’ only touchdowns.

There is one upside, which coaches will always discuss when they’re looking for a bright side following a one-sided loss. If there were ever an inclination among players to not process what the coaches are telling them, it should go away when game results show that the coaches might be onto something.

Said Franchione, “In coaching sometimes, you tell a player something 1,000 times, but until he experiences the bad part of it … he hears better after it happens.”

Somehow, the Bobcats just didn’t have the tough mental approach that characterized their first four games, especially their performances against Texas Tech and Wyoming.

“Through the first four games when things went south a little bit, we came right back, we fought, we hung in there,” Franchione said. “The other night when things went south, we didn’t respond. When we didn’t respond, we pressed. When we pressed, our technique went bad. Then when our technique goes bad, we have those teachable moments.”

Overall, the Bobcats are 3-2 and ULM is 2-4. When it’s all added together, neither team is burning it up, defensively or offensively. Defensively, Texas State ranks 83rd out of 123 bowl-level teams at 421.4 yards per game, while ULM ranks 93rd at 436.7. Offensively, ULM ranks 99th with 356.7 yards per game, while the Bobcats are 118th at 300.6.

Both teams are somewhat challenged this year by changing quarterbacks. The Bobcats moved to freshman Tyler Jones two weeks ago. After starring in a 41-21 win at home against Wyoming last month, Jones struggled with his teammates in last week’s loss at ULL. ULM had to call the next man in line when Kolton Browning went down last month with a torn quad.

The ULM quarterback in recent games has been Brayle Brown, a sophomore who is completing just more than half of his passes (35 of 68) for 442 yards.

With Saturday’s game, the Bobcats enter the fat part of their schedule, three straight games at Bobcat Stadium. The next two will be against Georgia State and South Alabama.

If the Bobcats can win all three at home, they will be 3-1 in the league, bowl eligible and thick with possibilities. And if they don’t win this one, they’re in last place.

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