There was a lot to like in Texas State's 65-0 dismembering of the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions and plenty of positives to build on for the coaches and players. Not everything was perfect, but it's hard to find much to nitpick after a victory like this. Without further ado, here's how each unit graded out on Saturday night at Bobcat Stadium.
Tyler Jones made it look effortless for the vast majority of the two quarters and change that he played. UAPB had no answer for anything that he did, whether it was a quick slant, a screen, a dump off to the running back, running the option, or throwing a bomb down the field. He did take a couple of sacks and missed a wide open Bradley Miller down the field on one throw, but given where Jones was at this time last year he's drastically improved.
Connor White and Fred Nixon both saw snaps in the second half. White didn't have much trouble against UAPB's defense either, although he did attempt an option pitch far too late that was fumbled into the end zone and recovered by UAPB to take away a potential touchdown.
Running Backs: A+
Robert Lowe got his expected numbers, Terrence Franks contributed with six carries, 38 yards, and a touchdown, but perhaps what was most surprising was to see the fifth and sixth string freshman running backs Stedman Mayberry and Louis Rubin slice through the UAPB defense with relative ease. Although UAPB had pretty much given up by then, the freshmen backups still took advantage of the chances they were given to impress.
Tim Gay and Chris Nutall were in street clothes, as Gay was injured and Nutall was out for an undisclosed reason. If and when they return, this unit is going to be incredibly deep.
Wide Receivers: A
Texas State spread the ball around effectively as 13 different players notched at least one reception on the night. Jafus Gaines stood out and abused the Pine Bluff secondary, although as mentioned in the postgame recap he still needs to work on his hands.
Converted running back CJ Best also stood out as a potential threat on end around plays as he received an incredibly late pitch from Tyler Jones to convert a 17 yard touchdown run. Surprisingly, Brandon Smith had a quiet night of only one catch for 8 yards.
Tight Ends: A-
Ryan Carden had 3 catches for 35 yards and helped out the offensive line in manhandling UAPB's defensive front. Bradley Miller had a quiet night with one catch for 8 yards; he did end up open on one play but Tyler Jones didn't see him.
Offensive line: A
One of the biggest reasons this game was so lopsided was because of how thoroughly the big men up front handled their counterparts from Pine Bluff. Robert Lowe had holes the size of Mack trucks to run through, and Tyler Jones often had 5 or 6 seconds to throw in the pocket. Two sacks on Jones prevented me from giving them an A+, but the o-line should be very proud of their performance.
Defensive line: C
When the Bobcats only rushed four and dropped the linebackers into coverage, athletic UAPB quarterback Benjamin Anderson usually evaded the onrushing linemen and scrambled out of the pocket. The defensive ends did get some speed off the edge to harass the UAPB backs, but the defensive tackles at times had trouble getting much of a push.
UAPB's zone read rushing game wasn't particularly effective, but their running backs were often able to get past the DT's and into the second level until the linebackers cleaned up the mess. Germond Williams, Karee Berry, and Michael Odiari were occasionally able to get in good positions to assist Orakpo and Mayo, but they'll need to get better at shedding their blocks against FBS competition.
Orakpo and Mayo played a massive role in creating and preserving the shutout, and backup Stephen Smith also got in on the action with 5 tackles and a sack of his own. The second and third stringers also got in on the action quite often. Until the defensive line improves, the linebackers will have to carry the front seven.
Holding a quarterback who threw for 2700 yards last year to an 8 of 19, 76 yard outing was impressive, to say the least. Craig Mager and David Mims II combined for 8 tackles, and both corners were effective at locking down their respective receivers.
The safeties did give up a few underneath routes over the middle, but that was partly a function of John Thompson calling a few prevent plays later on in the game. Aaron Shaw had some solid pass breakups on the few times UAPB attempted to go over the top.
Special Teams: A-
Placekicker Jason Dann had a busy night, hitting a 31 yard field goal and 8 of 9 extra points. Dann did have a shank off the upright for one of the extra points, which knocks down this unit's grade somewhat. Will Johnson boomed long kickoffs as usual, and Craig Mager had a nice punt return of 35 yards.
Texas State's coaching staff clearly got their team fired up for this opener and executed a coherent yet not overly revealing game plan against a lesser opponent. Thompson's blitz packages overwhelmed the UAPB offensive line, and Schultz's no-huddle offense gassed the poorly conditioned UAPB defense with numerous snaps before 20 on the play clock.
The coaches were also able to get almost everyone on the roster into the game, which is always good for building overall depth. One thing the coaching staff will need to focus on is cutting down on unnecessary penalties during the bye week.
Game Ball: Tyler Jones, QB. If he can put up similar numbers against FBS competition, Texas State's offense could be scary.