Arkansas State showed up with an extra gear in the second half Saturday and Texas State couldn’t match it.
As a result, a tight football game at halftime went into the books as an easy 38-21 win for Arkansas State, which thereby joined the Bobcats in the pool for bowl eligibilty with its sixth win of the year.
The Bobcats now are 6-4 overall and 2-3 in the Sun Belt Conference. Arkansas State is 6-4 and 4-1.
“We lost the line of scrimmage, we had some kicking game things that hurt us, and we didn’t score any points in the second half offensively,” Texas State coach Dennis Franchione said. “It was kind of a total team thing. We don’t have time to sit around and feel self-pity, because we got a team coming in next week that is as good as this team, so we’ve got to get ready.”
The Bobcats entered the game ranked 12th nationally in rushing defense, allowing 106.2 rushing yards per game. But that meant nothing to Arkansas State, which netted 358 rushing yards in 57 attempts. Arkansas State sophomore running back Michael Gordon torched the Bobcats for 184 yards in 19 rushing attempts. Gordon started the day with 400 career rushing yards in 10 games.
Saturday’s results did not help the Bobcats in their bid to enter a bowl game. With 35 bowl games to be filled out by 70 teams, 68 now have reached the bowl-eligibility threshold six wins, and 10 more teams with games remaining have five wins.
Next Saturday’s game now becomes critically important for the Bobcats if they’re going to have a postseason. They will play Western Kentucky at Bobcat Stadium in their final home game of the year. Bowl officials considering Texas State will want to see not just a Bobcat win, but some indication that the team has enough following generate bowl tourism.
The Bobcats and Arkansas State both raced up and down the field in the first half, which ended in a 21-21 tie. The second half was going to be a matter of which team could make the defensive adjustments and, as it turned out, Texas State didn’t score after halftime. The Bobcats managed only 150 offensive yards and six first downs in the second half.
Arkansas State gained only 151 offensive yards in the second half, but the Texas State kicking game gave the Red Wolves two short fields, which they turned into 10 points.
Early in the second half, Arkansas State’s J.D. McKissic returned a Texas State punt 43 yards to the Texas State 32. Arkansas State needed only four plays to score a touchdown on Gordon’s uncontested 16-yard run for a 28-21 lead with 7:57 left in the third quarter.
Arkansas State put together a long drive on its next possession, going 82 yards in 13 plays to a one-yard scoring run by David Oku, making it 35-21 with 27 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Bobcats got the ball back and couldn’t notch a first down. Nor could they produce a punt. Instead, punter Zach Robinson’s knee was ruled down at the Bobcat 10 when he caught the snap, giving the Red Wolves an easy opportunity. They could only turn it into a 23-yard field goal by Brian Davis for a 38-21 lead.
The Bobcats went off to a good start in this game, taking a 7-0 lead less than five minutes in with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Jones to Terrence Franks. But Arkansas State needed only three plays to go 70 yards and tie the game. Gordon ran 40 yards for the touchdown to make it 7-7.
That more or less set the tone for a back-and-forth second half. After Franks scored on a four-yard run to give the Bobcats a 14-7 lead, Gordon responded with a nine-yard touchdown run to tie the game, 14-14, with 12:44 left in the first half.
The Bobcats made a defensive play late in the first half, when linebacker David Mayo intercepted Arkansas State quarterback Adam Kennedy at the ASU 29 and returned the ball to the 22. The Bobcats scored three plays later on a seven-yard pass from Jones to Ryan Carden that gave them a 21-14 lead.
But Arkansas State responded with a drive, covering 71 yards in 10 plays. Kennedy’s eight-yard touchdown pass to McKissic tied the game, 21-21, 1:13 before halftime.
After halftime, though, the game was all Arkansas State.
Robert Lowe led the Bobcats with 86 rushing yards in 14 carries. Jones completed 17 of 28 passes for 204 yards.
A version of this story was published in Bobcat Magazine.