So that was wild. Early anger and frustration turned to joy-filled pandemonium by halftime, only to revert back to sheer impotent rage as blatantly incompetent Sun Belt refs and a substandard Bobcat defense led to a second half collapse. Let's get into what we know after the Southern Miss debacle.
1. The defense was as bad as we feared and then some
This isn't what you want to hear from HC three games into season about his D: "We have to go back to the drawing board and analyze things."— Joe Vozzelli (@smdrjoe) September 20, 2015
I was concerned, but not flipping out after Florida State. I was worried after Prairie View. After tonight's performance and that quote from Fran? I'm smashing the panic button until my knuckles bleed.
The entire unit looked too small and too slow. USM's offensive line obliterated Texas State's defensive line much like Florida State did. Bobcat players were constantly out of position, taking bad angles to the ball, arm tackling in woefully ineffective fashion, and getting completely worked by the Southern Miss "5 seconds to the line and snap" tempo.
Outside of a couple of opportunistic strips of the ballcarrier, Texas State was only able to slow down USM's offense when they attempted to bring pressure. Yet DC John Thompson, who is supposedly known for being hyper-aggressive, opted numerous times to bring only a four man rush. Or at times, inexplicably, a three man rush. Exactly what is the defensive strategy at this point?
Here are some of the ignominious numbers that USM rolled up on Texas State last night:
- 613. Total. Yards.
- 8.9 yards per play
- 6.1 yards per rush
- 9 of 15 on 3rd down conversions
- Four red zone opportunities, four touchdowns.
- Jalen Richard - 230 yards rushing, four touchdowns.
All this despite 130 yards of Southern Miss penalties whenever the Sun Belt refs weren't busy playing Mr. Magoo. It's highly debatable whether this defense could slow down a single offense in FBS at this point.
It's fair to start asking how Texas State got itself into this mess where few consistent defensive playmakers are present outside of a couple of decent cornerbacks. We were sold a narrative by some optimists that despite losing Mager and Mayo to the NFL, this defensive unit was still deep thanks to being stocked with 2 and 3 star talent. This defense isn't particularly young either--only one freshman is in the two deep, and although four starters are sophomores, one of them is one of the better players on the unit.
So were those recruiting ratings wrong, or is all that talent being wasted? Perhaps it's a bit of both.
2. Tyler Jones is a one man killing machine
Even though some of his numbers late in the 4th were in vain because Texas State ran out of time, and even if his ridiculously gaudy numbers were partly a product of Franchione's conservative offensive system of chewing up yards, he is bar none the MVP of this team. He singlehandedly kept Texas State in the game in the first half in Tallahassee before FSU threw down the hammer.
Then he puts up almost five hundred yards of offense by his lonesome against Southern Miss, with five touchdowns to boot.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Tyler Jones can't stop, won't stop. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TXST?src=hash">#TXST</a> <a href="https://t.co/KShukXakMi">https://t.co/KShukXakMi</a></p>— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) <a href="https://twitter.com/quixem/status/645631087381741569">September 20, 2015</a></blockquote>
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His elusiveness has only gotten better this season, his ability to fake defenders on handoffs is unparalleled, and his speed is deceptive. Not to mention his throws were mostly on target tonight. Now can we get the man some receivers who won't drop balls thrown right into their chest?
Tyler Jones isn't going to let this team lose without a fight. Unfortunately, the defense completely collapsed after the unconscionable "inadvertent whistle" that led to a 14 point swing in USM's favor. Which makes it all the more frustrating that Jones put in so much work to try and keep up. At this rate, Texas State could end up wasting the best quarterback it's had since Barrick Nealy, and that would be a travesty.
3. So much for going deep with the receivers
Yes, it's tough to criticize the offense after putting up 43 non-garbage time points. But there are still some kinks that could be worked out.
Once again, we were treated to the steady diet of rollouts and quick routes to the flat that didn't work against Florida State. Luckily enough, USM's defense was bad enough to where that strategy mostly worked. Texas State was able to chew up chunks of yardage and rack up some gaudy stats, but USM got stops when it mattered. Texas State was a less than impressive 6 of 16 on third down partly because Southern Miss were able to key on Bobcat receivers running short routes to the flat and/or behind the line of scrimmage.
Whenever Texas State tried shots over the middle, it worked (whenever a receiver didn't drop the ball). CJ Best supposedly has 4.3-40 straightline speed, even if he's a bit small of frame. Jafus Gaines made a couple of nice grabs, and Demun Mercer showed great hands on the tipped pass for the touchdown. So why not unleash them?
4. It's early, but this team probably isn't going bowling
Southern Miss deserves credit, because they've turned their program around and are on their way back up. But this game was still inherently winnable if even a mediocre defense had showed up in the stormtrooper uniforms Saturday night. The rest of the home schedule should've been winnable on paper too, as the remaining games at home are the anti-murderer's row of South Alabama, New Mexico State, Georgia State, and UL-Monroe. Yet none of those games are guarantees anymore, and the USA game in particular now looks perilous.
Then there are the road games, where better running backs than Jalen Richard await. Kenneth Farrow at Houston. Elijah McGuire at ULL. Matt Breida at Georgia Southern. Michael Gordon at Arkansas State's no slouch either. The prospect of facing any of them is unsettling from a Bobcat fan's perspective at this point.
Preseason expectations demanded 6-0 at home, a win at Idaho, and a couple of upset road wins to get to the magic number of 8 to remove any doubt about securing a bowl game. But unless that session at the drawing board yields some rapid fixes on defense, Texas State might be lucky to get to 6-6.
If year 5 of Dennis Franchione's tenure represents a decisive step backward, then some diehard Bobcats are going to start getting ornery real quick, y'all.