By BILL PETERSON
A football season ended at Texas State as one hasn’t ended around here in a while. The Bobcats aren’t going to the playoffs after their 28-20 win Saturday against Sam Houston State at Bobcat Stadium, but neither are they mopping their brows over the end to a dismal story.
The Bobcats merely ratified what the last two seasons have shown, that they’ve got a good thing going now, that they are producing good football teams. If the season didn’t go exactly the way they wanted, it still ended 7-4 overall and 5-2 in the Southland Conference.
But for the right two plays — one against McNeese State and another against Southeastern Louisiana — the Bobcats are unbeaten league champions going to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs as a highly-ranked national team.
So, the send off for the seniors wasn’t tempered by the frustration of a losing team. The seniors leave victorious in their way, with two consecutive winning seasons, which hadn’t happened in a quarter of a century, and with two straight five-win seasons in the conference, which had never happened.
“I’m excited for the young men and, especially, the seniors who led us in this direction,” Texas State head coach Brad Wright said. ” … It’s a tough time for a coach because we’re in the business for lots of reasons, and one of the main reasons is that you like to be around young men and watch them grow and be successful.”
Among the seniors is quarterback Bradley George, finishing his collegiate football career at the age of 27 after playing professional baseball for five years in the Cincinnati Reds organization. Wright mentioned that George was so smart with his bonus money that when the quarterback from New Braunfels signed with the Bobcats after giving up baseball, he asked someone to recommend a realtor. The Texas State head coach at the time, David Bailiff, said that was the first time a recruit asked for help finding a realtor.
George ended his career with a flourish Saturday, completing 22 of 37 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns. George finished eight yards short of the all-time single-season passing yardage record for Texas State, set by Barrick Nealy with 3,129 in 2003.
This season, when the Bobcats needed George to be accurate because an injury to Karrington Bush crippled the running attack, George took the offense as far as it could go. George finished the season with 3,121 passing yards, completing 258 passes (new school record) in 409 attempts (second to Nealy’s 473 attempts in 2003) and 23 touchdowns (second to his own mark of 26, set last year). His 63.0 percent completion rate for the season also is a school record.
In addition, George leaves as the school’s all-time career leader in passing yards (9,556), total yards (9,786), attempts (1,277), completions (753) and touchdown passes (76).
George said he will continue his football career “if someone wants to present me with an opportunity,” but he sounded more interested in his next career. George has completed a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology and now is working on a master’s in geography. He said he’s likely to go into land development.
At George’s age, he may not be exactly what the pro football scouts are looking for in a prospect, but he said he wouldn’t approach his life differently if he had the same choice to make coming out of New Braunfels Canyon High School. Rather than go straight to college, play quarterback come out at 22, George took the minor league baseball contract and decided five years later that his arm problems wouldn’t help him progress.
Thus, George turned to Texas State. He redshirted in 2005, while Nealy guided the Bobcats to the national semifinals. The next year, the team became his, first through two years of losing and, finally, two years of winning.
“I definitely don’t regret what I did, but I loved baseball,” George said. “I think you’ve just got to follow your heart. I definitely enjoyed my time here.”
Making George’s senior year all the more enjoyable was the emergence of wide receiver Da’Marcus Griggs, the junior from Bay City who smashed Cameron Luke’s single-season school receptions record with 80 after making 11 catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns Saturday. Griggs finished the season with 969 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, still a way short of the standards Luke set last season, when he caught 73 throws for 1,228 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“Maybe later on, I’ll appreciate it more,” Griggs said. “But right now, I’d like to be playing for something more and going to the playoffs.”
The game started oddly for the Bobcats. On their first play from scrimmage after the opening kickoff, George threw a deep out to Griggs, who then fumbled at the Sam Houston 14 after a hit from Robert Shaw. Free safety Chuck Obi recovered for Sam Houston State and took it back to his own 34.
Then, the two teams began ripping down field against each other. Sam Houston went 66 yards in 11 plays after the fumble recovery, scoring on a one-yard run by Chris Poullard. But the Bobcats bounced right back with four plays for 60 yards, most of it coming with Alvin Canady’s 48-yard touchdown run to make it 7-7.
Sam Houston came right back, aided by a roughing the punter penalty for first down at the Texas State 35. Blake Joseph threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Chris Lucas, giving the Bearkats a 14-7 lead. Texas State returned the punch on its next possession, going 63 yards in nine plays and scoring on George’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Daren Dillard, making it 14-14 early in the second quarter.
Sam Houston took a 17-14 lead on a 31-yard field goal by Miguel Antonio later in the second quarter, then extended the lead to 20-14 on Antonio’s 36-yard field goal early in the third quarter.
But the Texas State defense stepped up from that point, holding Sam Houston to 101 total yards in the last 26 minutes of the game. Meanwhile, the Bobcats made opportunities for themselves.
On Sam Houston’s next possession, Brian Lilly intercepted Joseph for the Bobcats at his own 31, halting a prosperous drive. Then, the Bobcats tore off big chunks on big downs. George’s 39-yard pass to Dillard on third-and-12 put the ball on Sam Houston’s 31. George’s 21-yard pass to Andrew Brooks down the right side on second-and-15 put the ball on the Sam Houston 15. Two plays later, George swung a pass left to Griggs, who ran in for a 13-yard touchdown. With Ryan Batchelor’s kick, the Bobcats held a 21-20 lead 5:32 left in the third quarter.
Sam Houston responded with a drive to the Texas State 27, but Antonio missed a 44-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Bobcats then went smoothly down field, helped by pass interference against Shaw on third-and-seven to put the ball on the Sam Houston 38. George then threw 21 yards to Griggs, then 13 to Griggs for the touchdown.
The Bobcats led, 28-20, with 6:06 left. Sam Houston had plenty of time, but couldn’t muster a first down for the rest of the game.
Wright said the Bobcats started the game playing emotionally, but not smartly. In the end, though, the game became a coronation for a senior class that has helped the Bobcats win as they haven’t won in generations.
“They showed you today why they’re going to be successful in life,” Wright said, “because they’re going to fight to the very end.”Email | Print