On a Tuesday night where anyone who was watching football was tuned in to Sun Belt action on ESPN2, the Texas State Bobcats got slaughtered at home, 34-10, by the talented and resurgent Louisiana Ragin Cajuns. Here's how things looked from the Bobcat side of the beatdown.
Will Johnson for Game MVP
The senior kicker/punter boomed 8 punts for a 46.2 yard average, pinned three inside the 20, and had three punts over 50 yards. If only the #puntingiswinning meme really was true.
David Mims II & David Mayo
The junior corner had solid pass coverage as he stepped up and made an incredible last second pass breakup on Jamal Robinson and got an interception near the end zone. Mims did miss a tackle on a big Elijah McGuire run, but he was hardly the only Bobcat guilty of doing so. Mayo got to Terrance Broadway a few times in the first half for some big hits.
Student Attendance (In the 1st half)
They were late in arriving, but the student section filled up most of the north end zone and east side bleachers on a Tuesday night. They also were instrumental in causing two straight false start penalties by Louisiana in the first half. Once again the students blew the alumni attendance out of the water.
Will Johnson for Game MVP
"Oh, so your team's best player was the punter? How did the game go?"
The Scoop and Score
The game's lone fat guy touchdown was bad luck more than anything as Jones's knee was a microsecond from being down before the ball came out, but it still completely took the air out of Bobcat Stadium and the whole team.
Aside from Demetrius Woodard biting on the play action for the first touchdown, the Bobcat defense singlehandedly kept Texas State in the game for the first quarter and a half or so. However, as the offense sputtered, the defense wore down in the 2nd quarter and the Bobcats' tackling techniques once again went to hell. Missed tackles were common, such as during McGuire's touchdown run where Louisiana got away with holding Damani Alexcee but Stephen Smith fell down and Mayo dove and came up with nothing but air.
The (Very) Ugly
The Entire Offense
For those of you fellow football stat geeks, I recommend you have any young children leave the room when you look at the box score as to avoid them seeing unnecessary gore. Louisiana of course played a big role in making Texas State look bad, but not cracking 300 total yards or 100 yards rushing against a team that gave up 28 points to Georgia State in Lafayette can still be considered a full systems failure on offense.
The receivers kept missing catchable passes, the offensive line couldn't open any holes for either Terrence Franks or Robert Lowe to run through, and Tyler Jones continued his regression from the Idaho game by going straight back to last season's issues of not setting his feet or maintaining a solid pocket presence, staring down his receivers, and not making the right reads. The o-line didn't do a great job at maintaining their blocks either, but Jones looked off kilter no matter how much time he had in the pocket.
Conservative Coaching Strategy
After the scoop and score, things started going off the rails for Texas State, but instead of trying to fire up their team and come out swinging, coaches Fran and Schulz went even more conservative in their strategy. Multiple opportunities came up for Texas State's coaching staff to be aggressive and fire up their team, but instead they waited, and waited, and waited, to unleash their offense until the score was 34-3 and Bobcat Stadium was almost completely empty.
The utterly predictable offensive strategy that ensued after the Bobcats got in a hole consisted of: a zone read/dive, an end around/qb sneak, 3rd and long pass, punt, or a similar combination. Everyone in the stadium knew what was coming, none moreso than the Ragin' Cajun defense. The up tempo offense that was clicking effectively earlier this season reverted to a zombie edition of last year's slothfense.
Settling for three points instead of going for it on 4th and goal at the three yard line was understandable. Not using one of three timeouts available to get the ball back with a minute left before halftime as Louisiana faced 4th and short at the Bobcat 45 was at least remotely understandable as UL had been moving the ball at will.
However, attempting only one pass on the final possession of the second quarter and then conceding a 21-3 halftime deficit led to a mass exodus of fed up fans from Bobcat Stadium. Not going for it on multiple 4th and makeable occasions in the 3rd quarter when Texas State had nothing to lose made the Bobcats look gutless instead of simply overmatched.
Louisiana was and is far and away the better team, and Texas State would've had trouble winning even if they'd brought their "A" game. That being said, the re-occurrence of some malignant patterns that have plagued Dennis Franchione teams of old is concerning.
The run-first run-second strategy in the 2nd half looked sadly similar to the mind games the coaching staff had already pulled on Tyler Arndt and Shaun Rutherford. Instead of giving Jones opportunities to find a rhythm and rebuild his confidence in a situation where Texas State had nothing to risk except a slightly worse-looking score, the coaches opted to try and put lipstick on a pig.
Jones might continue to regress if he has the thought in the back of his head that the coaches are going to pull plug on him every time he and his receivers hit a rough patch. The strategy of going conservative when things didn't go well also had a visibly negative effect on the entire team's confidence, and it did not put the players in position to create anything resembling a comeback.
What's more troubling is that Dennis Franchione sounded mystified in the postgame press conference as to why his teams "for some reason" haven't performed well on a big stage during his second stint at Texas State. His answer to the problem appears to be to deflect accountability away from the coaches and entirely onto the players. Instead of exclusively blaming his team for not getting it done, perhaps it's time for Coach Fran and his staff to look in the mirror and make some hard assessments.