Texas State Bobcats (0-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) vs FIU Panthers (1-0, 0-0 Conference USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 11th, 7:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN Plus (Play-By-Play: AJ Ricketts/Analyst: Patrick Murray)
Radio: WQBA 1140 AM Univision Radio South Florida (Play-By-Play: Corey Brooks)/KTSW 89.9 Texas State Radio Network (Play-By-Play: Clint Shields /Analyst: Geff Gandy)
Location: FIU Stadium, Miami, FL
Betting Line: FIU -1.5 O/U 55
All-Time Series Record: First Meeting
While the victory came over an FCS opponent, FIU’s 48-10 triumph over Long Island University was important because for the first time in almost two years, the Panthers looked like a competent offensive football team.
Running back D’Vonte Price fell just 14 yards shy of a new career-high rushing, carrying five times for 165 yards and three scores in the victory. As a team, the Panthers rushed for 326 yards, their most rushing yards since putting up 350 against Charlotte in October of 2019. Quarterback Max Bortenschlager appears to have locked down the starting quarterback role after going 14-of-17 for 266 yards and two touchdowns with one interception on Saturday. The Maryland transfer spoke about how it felt to not be part of a rotation, unlike last year’s three-quarterback situation.
“It obviously felt good to be in there and to not rotate in and out, in my opinion that didn’t help any of us last year,” said Bortenschlager.
The 266 yards set a new career-high in passing, eclipsing the 255 yards he threw for against Northwestern in 2017 while with Maryland. The FIU offensive line kept Bortenschlager off the turf, not allowing any sacks while playing 10 offensive linemen in the victory. On defense, the only minor hiccup for Everett Withers’ unit was the 74-yard touchdown pass allowed, one that saw Rishard Dames get his feet tangled up, allowing the breakaway score. Safety Richard Dames led the way with eight tackles for FIU. Postgame, he mentioned that Withers may have more defensive schemes than he showed against the FCS opponent.
“I think Coach (Withers) has a few more things up his sleeve than he showed tonight, we still have a ways to improve as a defense and he let us know that we did some good things, but we definitely can be better,” said Dames.
The Texas State game should serve as a more accurate barometer of where the Panthers are after their abysmal 2020 season. Entering the game, there are no shortage of storylines linking the two teams together — beyond the fact that both programs are looking to get off to a fast start in 2021, coming off of down years.
The aforementioned Withers led the Bobcats for three seasons (2016-2018) amassing a 7-28 record before being relieved of his duties 11 games into the ‘18 season.
In addition, Withers’ son Pierce played at Texas State from 2018-2020, before transferring to FIU this offseason and earning the starting nickel/star role.
FIU DE Hal Vinson is no longer with the program, per source with knowledge of the situation.— Eric Henry (@EricCHenry_) September 8, 2021
Vinson appeared in last week's game and tallied 2 tackles.
Former Texas State linebacker Hal Vinson joined the Panthers in the offseason after five years with the Bobcats. However, after recording two tackles in last week’s win, Vinson is no longer with the program and won’t suit up against his old team.
Texas State Preview
The opening week of play for Jake Spavital’s club saw the Bobcats push Baylor for a majority of the game, but ultimately falling 29-20 at home. As the team turns to FIU, their number one focus has to be getting more consistent play out of quarterback Brady McBride. The 6-0, 200-pound sophomore began his career at Memphis, before transferring to Texas State and threw for 1,925 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year. However, he missed multiple games to due COVID-19 and was never able to settle into a consistent rhythm. His three-interception game against Baylor was the third game of his career that he threw multiple interceptions.
Against the Panthers, McBride will be helped by the return of running back Brock Sturges, who didn’t see action against Baylor. Sturges and freshman back Calvin Hill combined for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground last season. The duo will look to test a Panthers’ run defense that held tough in last week’s victory over Long Island, but has allowed at least 150 yards rushing in 20 of its last 32 outings. Keep an eye on wideout Marcell Barbee. The 6-2, 200-pound junior led the team in all major statistical receiving categories last season and led the team last week with four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Spavital made headlines by only signing two players in last year’s recruiting class outside of the transfer portal. The infusion of players has already had an effect on the Bobcats’ defensive lineup, with four transfers earning starting roles and a fifth seeing significant time in last week’s game. Former Utah State safety Troy Legfred Jr. led the team last week with 10 tackles and be expected to play a factor in the passing game and in providing support to stop Price. Weakside linebacker Sione Tupou and free safety Zion Childress are the top returners from last year and will be expected to have a significant impact on Saturday.
It can’t be emphasized enough how important this game is for both programs. For Texas State, Jake Spavital is entering his third season as Withers replacement in San Marcos. His 5-20 record through 25 games is only one game better than Withers’ 4-21 mark over the same span. An 0-2 start would be far from ideal for the 36-year-old Spavital’s efforts to avoid the same fate that Withers met in year three.
For the Panthers, this game is just as crucial to prove that they’re capable of beating an FBS opponent and putting the team in a good position before taking on a Power Five program in Texas Tech on September 18th. Keep an eye on the receiver spot as Shemar Thornton will be a game-time decision after missing the season-opener with tonislitis. If he can’t go, sophomore Tyrese Chambers will earn the start.
If McBride can avoid the turnovers, he’s a more than capable signal-caller, who has shown flashes of the player that began his career at Memphis. With FIU, they’ll want to continue to establish the run game early, setting up Bortenschlager with opportunities for success as the game progresses.
Final Score: FIU 27, Texas State 21