In what will be a running piece for each team in the Sun Belt, we will give a season synopsis for each program in the conference. To start us off with 2017 officially in the record books will be the Texas State Bobcats who again finished last in the league.
Not much was expected of the program led by Everett Withers in 2017 as the coaches picked the Bobcats to finish 11th while the UDD team had Texas State finishing last in the Sun Belt for a second straight season. This was a program that had lost 10-straight conference games entering the season and was again thought to be one of the worst teams in the FBS. In February, Texas State pulled in the top Sun Belt recruiting class of 2017, so that had the fan base excited. Add in the fact that both linebackers Bryan London II and Gabe Loyd were getting looks at preseason all-conference, Mississippi State grad transfer Damian Williams was a talent upgrade at quarterback, and you had some very positive buzz around the program. There was a chance the Bobcats could be a sleeper this fall.
After grinding out a win against FCS Houston Baptist in the opener, the Bobcats would go on to lose six in a row as their Sun Belt losing streak would reach 14 games until they beat Coastal Carolina on the road during Halloween weekend. However, that celebration was short-lived as the Bobcats would lose their last four conference games to finish the season 2-10 overall and 1-7 in league play.
For the second year in a row, the Bobcats averaged less than 20 points per game. The offense could only muster 4.8 yards per play as Damian Williams and true freshman Willie Jones III split time at quarterback. Williams received the majority of the snaps, but Jones flashed some potential playmaking ability. The duo combined to throw 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
On the ground, Anthony D. Taylor led the team with 436 rushing yards with four yards per carry. A pair of newcomers, Robert Brown, Jr. and Anthony Smith, each ran for over 300 yards but the ground game struggled overall as they only averaged 3.4 yards per carry as a team. Outside, senior Elijah King led the team in receiving with 752 yards on 52 grabs but after him there wasn’t much there.
The defense put together some strong performances in the early part of the season, but fell apart as the year moved along. For the season, the Bobcats allowed 33.6 points per game and 6.2 yards per play. Each was an improvement from last season.
Sophomore linebacker Bryan London II had another solid season as he led the team with 91 tackles. Frankie Griffin (11 tackles for loss) and Gabe Loyd (83 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, five sacks) were also very productive linebackers in this 3-4 scheme. Turnovers remain an issue as the Bobcats were only able to force nine in 12 games.
Texas State used three kickers this season and they combined to hit 10 of 14 field goals. Each will be back in 2018. Marcus Ripley averaged over 42 yards per punt but the Bobcats got very little in the return game.
In the offseason, the staff decided to move wide receiver A.J. Krawczyk over to defense and this move immediately paid dividends. The Kingwood, Texas, native played safety this year for the Bobcats and was third on the team in tackles with 74 stops. Krawczyk led the squad with 55 solo tackles as well as forcing two fumbles. The junior will be one of the leaders of the defense next fall.
A year after finishing dead last in the conference in scoring offense, an influx of talent was suppose to help Texas State put points on the scoreboard. However, the scoring offense dipped to 17.3 points per game this season as the Bobcats put up 10 points or less four times. Texas State’s yards per play average increased, but ball security was an issue as the Bobcats lost 24 turnovers. In the red zone, less than half of the possessions ended in touchdowns. It just wasn’t a good year for the offense and that is a concern.
In 2018, Everett Withers will enter year three with a 4-20 record at Texas State that includes a 1-15 mark in Sun Belt play. Under Withers, the Bobcats have yet to win a home game against FBS competition and that is something that needs to happen very quickly. There is no question that this team improved this season, but there is still a long way to go.
Withers and his staff are doing a good job getting talent to San Marcos as they currently have the conference’s third best class in 2018 after having the best class last year per 247 Sports. Withers still has four years remaining on his contract, so he’s nowhere near hot seat territory, but it will be imperative for Texas State to take a step forward next year and climb out of the Sun Belt gutter.