As the last game of the season approaches for the Texas State Bobcats the realization of a winless Sun Belt record is also approaching fast. As a matter of fact, they haven’t won a Sun Belt game since November 19th of the 2015 season when they beat Louisiana-Monroe in San Marcos. But hey, we got one more game to at least avoid the conference shutout and head into 2017 with some confidence.
Texas State enters the game at 2-9 (0-7 Sun Belt) against the defending Sun Belt champion Arkansas State Redwolves who are 6-5 (6-1 Sun Belt) and a 24 point favorite to win. A share of the Sun Belt title is on the line for Arkansas State but for Texas State they are trying to stay clear of the program's first double-digit loss season in the 112 year history of Bobcat football and their worst outing since the 1993 squad went 2-9.
Well what are the keys to victory for the Bobcats? Lets take a look:
Know Your Enemy
I had a chance to talk to UDD writer Martin L. Ferguson who covers Arkansas State football for some insight on the Redwolves and their program.
The team is seeking a share of the title but after the disappointing loss to ULL and the drastic turnaround after the 0-4 start is the season still the success fans were looking for?
The season has been such a rollercoaster with the slow start and then the loss to in-state FCS school Central Arkansas. The staff finally settling on Justice Hansen at QB and the resurgence of the defense after a horrendous start gave the fan base some renewed spirit and interest. It's hard to gauge now after the ULL loss, especially with the dramatic ending.
- What kind of adjustments does Arkansas State need to make to win on Saturday?
At this point, they just need to stick to what helped create the streak which is playing solid defense and being creative on the offensive side of the ball. At times they have gotten away from the sideline to sideline mentality in game planning that forces defenses to cover the whole field and try to be a between the tackles team which has only given them sporadic success.
- What key players should Texas State look out for on both sides of the ball?
Offensively look for wide receiver #4 Kendall Sanders. He is a transfer from Texas that had a very slow start to the year but they have worked hard to find ways to get him touches. He had six catches for 90 yards last week and can be a playmaker in open space. It's been all about the defensive ends in the defensive side of the ball lately, as Chris Odom and Ja'Von Rolland-Jones have excelled. Between the two of them they have 20.5 sacks and have established themselves as the top DE tandem in college football.
- Do you feel like Blake Anderson has the potential to stay and keep building the program or is he in the cross hairs of other programs?
I think he has to have a huge year next year to garner true interest from a P5 program. The start of this year probably took him off some lists.
- Looking ahead to the future what bowl game do you see Arkansas State getting a bid to and also which opponent in the bowl games would you like to see the Red wolves play?
I think ASU will either end up in Montgomery in the Camellia or back to Mobile to the now Dollar General and seem destined to face a MAC team, maybe Ohio. I would love to see them play anyone else but a MAC team just for something new.
Last Saturday Bobcat Coach Everett Withers started Junior quarterback Conner White and inserted fellow Junior quarterback Eddie Printz in the effort to start evaluating the young talent in preparation for the off season but the upcoming game against the Redwolves is Texas State’s Senior Day at Bobcat Stadium and I can’t see Senior quarterback Tyler Jones just sitting back on the sidelines at his last game. The prolific Jones is the holder of many single game, single season and career records at Texas State and even though 2016 has not been the kind of season both Tyler Jones and the Bobcats wanted it’s hard for me to think that he won’t start and at least shine one last time.
Defense and Special Teams: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together
The paltry Bobcat offense has had their defense up against the wall way too many times this year and in spite of it all they have shown signs that the young squad can have a dominant future ahead of them. Bryan London has emerged as the anchor of the defense, placing in the top three tacklers in the nation. In order to give the struggling offense a chance they need to get turnovers and scores similar to their near comeback win against Louisiana-Monroe earlier this year. All year the ‘Cats have proved they can make crucial stops but have been on the field way too often this season.
In addition, the special teams can turn momentum in their favor as they lead the nation in blocked kicks and their return game has been giving the offense great field position game after game. Texas State will also need an outstanding game from punter Lumi Kaba to put the field position game in Texas State’s favor.