The day after Texas State put in their worst defensive performance to date in a 59-14 mollywhomping at Houston, NBCSports's college football talk put out an announcement that the Bobcats would be making a coaching change mid-season.
Report: Texas State defensive coordinator John Thompson resigns http://t.co/jcdA48dnbw— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) September 27, 2015
Dennis Franchione has never had a coordinator leave mid-season in his second stint at Texas State, so in that sense the move was somewhat of a surprise.
Speculation immediately turned to Thompson being forced out as part of a power play by head coach Dennis Franchione and/or his bosses, but San Marcos Record beat writer Joe Vozzelli says the official party line statement is that it was Thompson's decision and his alone.
This just in: I have confirmed that #TXST DC John Thompson has resigned. It was Thompson's decision.— Joe Vozzelli (@smdrjoe) September 27, 2015
Franchione in statement: "Coach Thompson made a decision that he thought it was in the best interest of the program that he resign." (1/2)— Joe Vozzelli (@smdrjoe) September 28, 2015
"That was not my choice or under my direction. It was under his. We appreciate what he has done and given to this program." (2/3)— Joe Vozzelli (@smdrjoe) September 28, 2015
"We will close ranks, march on and make the appropriate decisions for us to get better." (3/3)— Joe Vozzelli (@smdrjoe) September 28, 2015
That's fairly altruistic on Thompson's part if true, or perhaps he just got frustrated enough to the point of quitting. Having his family based in Atlanta while he coached a time zone away had to have worn thin as well.
Whether Thompson really is an Honest Abe or whether Franchione (or Larry Teis) gave him the "resign or be fired" choice, his resignation is ultimately the right move for Texas State. Through four games, Texas State's defense could not be any worse.
Stat of the day: #TXST is last in the country in scoring defense.— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) September 27, 2015
One more stat: #TXST is 126th in total defense. Bad news: There's 127 teams in Division I.— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) September 27, 2015
The stats say that Texas State is giving up 58 points and 646 yards a game against FBS competition, 123rd in the country in third down defense (opponents have converted 54.5% of third downs), 123rd in the country in 1st downs surrendered, last in the country in pass defense S/P+...the list goes on. To put things in perspective, the much-maligned 2012 defense was better than this. They at least had Joplo Bartu as a vocal leader and could bend but not break under Naivar's 4-2-5 base.
Outside of the stats, this defense hasn't measured up in the eye test department either. The defensive line, while banged up, can't generate a pass rush. The linebackers look too slow and are doing things like trying to slide through gaps like one squeezes through a tight space rather than overwhelming their blockers and applying pressure to the pocket.
And the secondary...well, it's hard to fault them too much considering the front six can't get to the quarterback even when the coaches call five, six, or seven man blitzes, but their ability to recover and prevent big plays has been nonexistent. Texas State has not made a single interception through four games, which is a staggering testament to the defense's lack of ability to create havoc.
Miscommunication has also been a huge problem. Corners have been getting caught out on islands expecting safety help over the top when none was there.
Not to mention the arm tackling and bad angles taken to the ball have been constant problems. Dunbar's touchdown for Houston saw three secondary players closing on him at once, yet he juked through all three because Brandon McDowell tried to tackle him from behind rather than contain the outside cutback lane. Players have been constantly falling over themselves (and each other) trying to tackle opposing backs. These are mistakes that should rarely happen on FBS defenses, yet this season they've been constant.
It's hard to blame Thompson's playcalling much, however. Although he did inexplicably try a few three and four man rushes against FSU and Southern Miss, he threw quite a few blitzes at Houston. The rush just didn't get there. That's more on the personnel and in-practice coaching of addressing gaps and assignments than in-game decisions.
Another consequence of this defensive collapse is that it's put far too much pressure on Tyler Jones to make things happen. Last night, Texas State abandoned their running game (which has also underperformed this season, but that's for another article) in favor of trying to win a shootout with Houston.
As Jones was forced to make more and more plays with his arm, UH's staff (which includes former TXST DC Craig Naivar and DBs coach Jason Washington) got wise to the routes Texas State ran and primed Houston's athletic secondary to jump them for interceptions. ULL, GSU, stAte, and ULM all have the ability to do the same. Trying to win shootouts by scoring 60 or more every week isn't sustainable with the way this offense is set up.
So although losing a coordinator mid-season definitely is unfortunate, the reality is that things couldn't get much worse. Sure, maybe the defense could end up quitting on the coaching staff and put in similar results, but there's also a chance Thompson's resignation could be the shot in the arm this team needs to turn things around.
Here's hoping that's what happens, because our livers can't take watching Texas State give up 600+ yards and almost 60 points every week.