The Texas State Bobcats rode an exquisite first half performance on offense to a big 63-24 win over visiting FCS opponent Prairie View A&M Saturday night in Bobcat Stadium. Unfortunately, we still don't know a lot about this team after disproportionate matchups with a top 10 program in Florida State and an overmatched SWAC squad. But let's try and take a look at what we might've learned Saturday night.
The Good Things
Thankfully, there were plenty!
1. The offense should be fine
A week after all but turtling with hyper-conservative play calling at Florida State, Dennis Franchione opened up the playbook to rapturous success. Tyler Jones torched PVAMU's woefully overmatched secondary to the tune of 278 yards and three touchdowns on 12 of 14 passing, including a 65 yard touchdown bomb to Brandon Smith and 20+ yard touchdown throws to Chris Nutall and Jafus Gaines. Connor White also made some nice plays as backup quarterback and has certainly earned his role as Jones's heir apparent.
Nutall and Lowe went nuts for 196 yards and four touchdowns between them, and Nutall's athleticism and elusiveness was particularly impressive. Credit the o-line for giving them some massive holes to run through and shaking off the struggles from Tallahassee.
2. Hello, Mr. McDowell
Sure, you probably shouldn't field punts inside the five. Sure, he fumbled a return later on in the game. But good heavens, that 95-yard punt return was something to behold. Brandon McDowell slid, juked, and ran past every man in PVAMU's kickoff coverage on the way to the longest punt return for a touchdown in Bobcat history, not to mention the first punt return TD since 2012 at Texas State. The sophomore out of DeSoto showed off his athleticism and could end up being a special teams threat for the 'Cats down the line.
3. Thirty. Five. Points. In one quarter.
Texas State's first quarter performance blew their inferior opponent out of the water and put the game out of reach immediately. It also tied the most points in a quarter that Texas State has rung up since Franchione's return to San Marcos in 2011. If the Bobcats hadn't completely taken their foot off the gas in the 2nd half, they easily could've dumped 100 on the Panthers--not that it would've been necessary or anything.
1. Defensive issues
PVAMU QB Trey Green had far too much success against Texas State's defense. After an inconsistent performance at Texas Southern, he turned in an impressive 25 of 37, 289 yard, 2 touchdown performance at Bobcat Stadium. Texas State's secondary looked a step slow at times and were vulnerable to giving up big plays under the umbrella (sound familiar)? When your starters give up 17 points to an FCS team, that's not a great sign.
Wrapping up was a problem for everyone from starters on down to third stringers. Green and RB Johnta Hebert broke multiple tackles by Bobcats who were in the right position to stuff them in the backfield. The defense did a decent job of swarming to the ball in groups at times, but Texas State lost too many one-on-one matchups just like last week. The difference this week being, of course, that Texas State was playing a SWAC team instead of NFL prospects. Gulp.
Kickoff coverage--usually a good sign of defensive depth--was also atrocious and is now a point of concern.
But by far the most worrying issue was the play of the linebackers. Although the d-line and secondary have issues, they also showed promise. The starters at linebacker most certainly did not.
Although he forced a fumble and racked up four tackles, Tim Gay was getting blown off the ball consistently by PVAMU's offensive line. It's clear that although he's one of the most athletic players on the roster and can hit hard, he can't shed blocks or take the best angle to the ball carrier.
Even more worrying was the disappearance of Trey McGowan. He had one tackle, one fumble recovery and...that's about it. He often looked slow and lost against an FCS team. That's not good, and perhaps it's time for backups Darnell Dailey (4 tackles, 1 TFL), Teron Fitzgerald (2 tackles, 0.5 TFL) or Bo Anderson (2 tackles) to get some looks. Not to mention Stephen Smith, assuming he's healthy in the future. They'll need Jerrid Jeter-Gilmon back from suspension as soon as humanly possible.
2. Second half sloppiness
After Coach Fran pulled the starters following a Tyler Jones-led touchdown drive, the backups came in and things kinda just went to crap. Connor White looked good at times and Nutall did his thing, but two lost fumbles, a parade of missed tackles, and a ton of penalties--Texas State would finish with 9 penalties for 113 yards--won't make the coaches happy.
A few contributors from last week's loss at FSU didn't start or play, namely safety Demetrius Woodard, who didn't start, and linebacker Stephen Smith, who was reportedly out with an injury after hurting his wrist at FSU (h/t to Keff Ciardello at BobcatIllustrated for the heads up).
Texas State for some reason wore the same white away uniforms that they wore at FSU. Perhaps those rumors of Adidas screwing up Texas State's home uniforms and the Bobcats not having any backups were true. In which case, the Texas State athletic department needs to punt Adidas as soon as their agreement is up. Nobody will miss them anyway.
Attendance was solid, as the home opener saw 24,561 fans stick around through halftime. Speaking of halftime, everyone expected this, but Prairie View absolutely won the battle of the bands. PVAMU's band was perhaps 60% of the size of Texas State's band, and they sounded twice as loud.
Also, Georgia State is on top of the Sun Belt now, which is a harbinger of the end times. It would also explain the plagues of crickets dive bombing my group in Section 204. Repent!
Southern Miss is next. We'll have more coverage of that intriguing G5 matchup later this week, so stay tuned to Underdog Dynasty for all your Bobcat news.