Injuries? Turnovers? Starting a shaky backup quarterback? None of that mattered for the South Alabama Jaguars as they secured bowl eligiblity with a roller coaster, heart attack 24-20 win over the Texas State Bobcats, who suffered a second straight gut-wrenching loss that went right down to the wire. South Alabama still has a chance of being left out of the bowl picture, but they got a must-needed win to keep their season on track. Meanwhile, Texas State's postseason hopes took a massive hit tonight.
Texas State was handed three golden opportunities to put South Alabama away early as three fumbles inside USA territory in the first quarter gave the Bobcats the chance to run away with the game. However, they could only garner ten points in those three possessions as two drives stalled on third and short and Will Johnson could only convert on one of two field goal tries.
South Alabama would claw their way back into the game with Terrance Timmons leading the way en route to 17 unanswered points. A flawless flea flicker touchdown to quarterback Hunter Vaughan kicked things off for the Jags. After an overturning of a Craig Mager interception in the end zone, Timmons then plunged 9 yards into the end zone for South Alabama's first lead early in the 4th quarter.
Texas State drove down to the USA 26 on a David Mims II interception in the 4th, but as the drive stalled with 4:30 left Dennis Franchione perhaps curiously elected to go for the field goal on 4th and 8 rather than try to get the tying touchdown. Will Johnson connected and made the score 24-20, USA.
The Bobcat defense would then stiffen and force a USA three and out and would keep driving methodically into Jags territory. Jones got sacked twice, but they'd keep finding a way to convert on 3rd or 4th and long. For Texas State partisans, it almost seemed like last year's heart stopping win was about to repeat itself.
Then, with 5 seconds left, Jones rolled out to the left and tried to find Ben Ijah in traffic, but to no avail. The ball dropped to the turf as Ijah appealed in vain for a game-extended pass interference call, and the USA Jaguars stormed off the field with the knowledge that their postseason dreams are still very much alive.
Texas State, meanwhile, saw the pattern of not capitalizing on golden opportunities in the form of turnovers and defensive stops bite them in the posterior for the 2nd straight week. There will be quite a bit of hand-wringing in San Marcos over the next few days about the Bobcats' inability to produce on offense in the 2nd half or beat a banged up USA team who was playing their backup QB, but give the Jags credit. Hunter Vaughan and the USA defense made just enough plays when it mattered, and they avenged last year's excruciating loss to the Bobcats by giving an equally painful loss to their opponents.
South Alabama moves to 6-4 (5-3 SBC) and still has a couple of very difficult contests coming up at South Carolina and at home against Navy. Texas State falls to 5-5 (3-3 SBC) and will likely need to win out at home on Thursday night against Arkansas State and on the road at Georgia State to secure a bowl berth.
Player of the game: Terrance Timmons, South Alabama