Texas State players celebrate a dramatic win Saturday night at Bobcat Stadium (Texas State sports information photo).
Texas State took a strong stand for its football season Saturday, beating South Alabama on a last-minute field goal to claim an evenly matched game against a Sun Belt Conference foe, riding the rapids to a dramatic victory.
The Bobcats inhaled and exhaled their way through a 33-31 win, taking their final lead on a 41-yard field goal by Jason Dann with four seconds remaining.
“That’s the stuff you go to bed at night and dream about,” Dann said.
But this game of twists and turns didn’t really end until South Alabama lateral led six times on its desperation final play, finally fumbling. Texas State’s D.J. Yendrey recovered at the USA 43, finishing the game.
The victory is a shot in the arm for the Bobcats, who improved to 2-2 in the Sun Belt Conference and 5-3 overall. USA is 1-2 and 3-4.
“That was win number five,” Texas State coach Dennis Franchione said to reporters after the game. “Teams are defined in October and November. A month from now we will be playing Troy the day after Thanksgiving. We will be defined in the next month. We have three road games left. It’s huge to get this one tonight. We know how to battle and that we can do it. It’s taken us three years to get guys to this point. It’s what do we make of it now.”
Whatever else this season is about, it’s about establishing that the Bobcats are competitive in this league. That was looking a little sketchy. Their first three games in the conference offered little encouragement. First, they lost, 48-24, at Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL). Next, they gave away a 21-14 loss at home to Louisiana-Monroe. They finally won a game in the league last week, but it came against a Georgia State outfit that still has never won a game in its life.
South Alabama isn’t exactly Alabama, but it has an active, athletic defense and a senior quarterback in control of the game, so it always has a chance. Both were influential in this game, but less than usual, and the Bobcats were just a little better in the moment.
The basis for the Bobcats is their solid defense and productive running game as they bring along freshman quarterback Tyler Jones as a passer. The Bobcats ran more than twice for every pass, 53-25, rushing for 272 yards. The game still ran mostly through Jones, who led the team with 23 carries and netted 68 yards.
Jones also improved to 60 percent completion efficiency, completing 15 of 25 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. It was a solid outing for Jones, though it did taper off some after he took the Bobcats on two touchdown drives of more than 60 yards in the first third of the game.
Best of all, though, Jones made the play he absolutely had to make, redeeming a horrid performance by the Bobcats as they took the ball from their own with 1:29 remaining, trailing by 31-30 and needing to cover at least 50 yards. The Bobcats brought to the moment an all-too-familiar mixture of destructive penalties, then there was an odd spiking of the ball on second down near midfield. Put it all together, and they faced fourth-and-24 from their own 26 with 41 seconds remaining.
Jones rolled right and appeared to be approaching full gallop as he neared his own 25, then he threw the out going right to Ben Ijah, who somehow found space between four defenders at the USA 40. Ijah caught the pass and turned down field all the way to the USA 21. The Bobcats ran one more play to center the ball for Dann’s winning field goal with four seconds left.
“I didn’t want to force anything, and I wanted to make the right decision,” Jones said. “A lot of it was instinct. I got outside and saw Ben got behind the defense and I got him the ball.”
Said Franchione, “He had his job to do. He knew it. He did it and that’s what makes him a quarterback.”
The game was about even statistically, with Texas State outgaining South Alabama, 452-409. The Bobcats won the game in little ways. They were eight-for-27 on third down and two-for-two on fourth down, helping them to a whopping 37:21 of possession time. They made one more trip to the red zone than South Alabama (four to three), converting it into a field goal, which was the difference. And their field goal kicker didn’t miss, hitting four of four, all of them between 35 and 43 yards.
For all their late-game heroics, the Bobcats won this game in the first half, when their defense gave South Alabama fits. The Jaguars never really solved the puzzle until the fourth quarter. When they did, the Texas State defense retaliated. And the offense retaliated often enough.
The Bobcats scored on their first possession, going 62 yards in eight plays for ten-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Ryan Carden. The Bobcats added another good drive, 68 yards in 11 plays, to score on a 16-yard pass from Jones to Brandon Smith. The Bobcats held a 14-0 lead 2:03 into the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Texas State defense started off with two three-and-outs and gave up one first down the next time.
Little by little, South Alabama inched closer to a solution. Next time out, the Jaguars drove from their own 17 to the Texas State 22, where quarterback Ross Metheny fumbled and recovered, producing no gain on fourth-and-one. The time after that, Metheny took the Jaguars from their own 35 to the Texas State four, where they faced fourth-and-two with 2:05 left in the first half. Down 14-0, South Alabama chose points for the board, a 20-yard field goal by Aleem Sunanon.
Neither team produced much offensively for much of the third quarter, excepting a negative moment produced by the Texas State offense. The Bobcats were moving when Jones threw an interception by USA’s Montell Garner at the Texas State 41. Garner returned the ball to the six, then a personal foul against the Bobcats’ Felix Romero put the ball on the three. Metheny ran those three yards and South Alabama was in the fight, down only 14-10 with 8:14 left in the third quarter, despite accomplishing little offensively.
To its credit, the Texas State offense responded with hard-earned points, driving from their own 10 to the USA 18 in 15 plays. The Bobcats took a 17-10 lead with a 35-yard field goal by Dann on fourth-and-one with 24 seconds left in the third period.
But South Alabama was starting to make plays on offense. A 32-yard run by Chris Dinham put the ball on Texas State’s 24 early in the fourth quarter. Next came 11 more yards from Dinham, then a 13-yard touchdown pass from Metheny to Shavarez Smith for a tie game, 17-17, with 13:10 left.
The Bobcats responded, though, to put the game back into their control. They retook the lead, 20-17, on Dann’s 37-yard field goal with 7:56 left. USA then received the ball, but didn’t keep it for long. Metheny threw an interception to Texas State’s Justin Iwuji, who returned the ball 29 yards for a touchdown. Texas State seemed to have the game clinched, leading 27-17 with 7:39 left.
Instead, the Bobcats suddenly were in a track meet. Right away, South Alabama went over the top and scored on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Metheny to Danny Woodson, bringing the Jaguars within 27-24 with 5:20 left. The Bobcats staved off South Alabama a little, driving 52 yards to a 43-yard field goal by Dann to make it 30-24 with 2:22 left.
But South Alabama got the ball back, Metheny tried the deep ball to Woodson again, and the 43-yard touchdown gave the Jaguars a 31-30 lead, it’s only lead of the game, with only 1:29 left.
“The disappointing thing was it was 27-17 and we didn’t just finish the game,” Franchione said. “We let them back in it. However, we are not going to dwell on that too long. We found a way to win.”
It’s always gratifying for a football team to do what it has to do in that situation, move the ball a bit, score some points and win the game. Score one for the Bobcats, a dramatic, credible win in their new league.
Email | Print