Prior to Saturday night's contest against the visiting South Alabama Jaguars, dark clouds had gathered over San Marcos--both figurative and literal. A 1-4 start meant a loss to USA would likely scatter the battered bowl hopes of the Texas State Bobcats into the swirling rain-wrapped ether that enveloped Bobcat Stadium and turned Jim Wacker Field into the world's largest slip-n-slide.
But instead of the listless, predictable effort that some may have expected, Texas State found a spark.
Although neither team could find much in the way of a consistent passing game in the torrential downpour, it was the Bobcats who rode their running game, special teams, and, yes, their much maligned defense to a 36-18 victory over USA.
Neither team could get much going in the 1st quarter, as both defenses took advantage of the slopfest and sloppy quarterback play by Cody Clements and Tyler Jones to keep both offenses at bay. But at the start of the 2nd quarter, the Bobcats struck.
Jones led Texas State down the field on a methodical 13 play, 95 yard, 5 minute drive, and he fittingly plunged it in himself to put the 'Cats up 6-3 after a missed extra point (womp womp). After the Bobcat defense stepped up some more and kept USA off guard with pressure on Clements, sticking to their assignments, and gang tackling, Robert Lowe took over for the 'Cats. He sliced through the USA front seven to add another Bobcat touchdown and put TXST up 12-3 before half.
Lowe would continue his onslaught after halftime, but a bit of magic struck for Texas State before then.
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: KICK SIX!!!!! #TXST— Jim Bob Breazeale (@jbbreazeale) October 25, 2015
I THREW OFF MY PONCHO NO REGRETS— Will Butler (@THETXSTUniv) October 25, 2015
A bunch of the team came out to mob McDowell after the score, and the celebration spilled over into the student section. The refs then flagged Texas State for unsportsmanlike condu--*WORLD'S LOUDEST AND LONGEST FART NOISE.*
Back to Lowe. He gashed South Alabama's defense throughout the second half, including a 16 yard touchdown run in the 3rd quarter, and would end up finishing with a stunning 248 yards on 30 carries (8.3 YPC) and three TDs.
South Alabama did their best to try and mount a couple of comeback efforts via touchdowns from DJ Vinson and Gerald Everett late in the 3rd and early in the 4th, respectively, as Texas State may have had a short lapse in intensity after three quarters of inspired play. However, the combination of Lowe's onslaught and Texas State's defense finally getting stops when it mattered would ultimately be too much for the Jags.
Lowe would ice the game for Texas State late in the 4th on a 54 yard blast, giving the Bobcats their first real late-game exclamation point since last year's win over Arkansas State.
There were many encouraging trends for Bobcat supporters to take from tonight's game. The defense (mostly) stayed home on assignments, strung out plays on the edge, and gang tackled even when a previous takedown attempt was missed. Secondary players Damani Alexcee and Aaron Shaw were disruptive and hard-hitting on multiple plays, while linebackers Trey McGowan and Jerrid Jeter-Gilmon helped contain USA's running game. The defensive line even got involved, as they tallied three sacks of Clements to their name.
But perhaps what was most important was that the team had an attitude. The players looked like they were fully and emotionally invested in the game, and were out to take no prisoners.
This energy was present on the Texas State sideline much of the evening. It was refreshing and fun to watch.
There were multiple reassuring signs that this team may have the fortitude to turn their season around. The team kept up their intensity and composure through the third quarter, and although there are still plenty of things to work on--111 penalty yards, a poor passing performance, and missed extra points, for example--Texas State showed they could create their own opportunities and control the narrative.
On the whole, what does a big, badly needed win over South Alabama mean for Texas State?
LOCKER ROOM CELEBRATIONS, Y'ALL.
As for South Alabama, it looks like the rebuilding job for Joey Jones might be tougher than previously thought, even with the influx of talent from UAB. Clements still doesn't look the part of a confident quarterback, and USA's defense couldn't stop the brute force attack of Jones and Lowe on the ground. Committing 124 penalty yards certainly didn't help their cause either. The back end of their schedule doesn't get much more forgiving, with games against Louisiana Lafayette, Georgia Southern, and Appalachian State still looming large for the Jags.
Texas State moves to 2-4 (1-1) on the season, while South Alabama drops to 3-4 (1-2). The 'Cats get a short turnaround to face a very angry Georgia Southern team in Statesboro on Thursday night on ESPN2, while the Jags get a bye week to nurse their wounds before facing Idaho.