Bobcats picked as favorites for Homecoming Week


Kate Connors

Head coach Jake Spavital celebrates and runs to the field after the Bobcats score off a fumble recovery during the first quarter of the Georgia State game on Sept. 21 at Bobcat Stadium.

Claire Partain, Sports Editor

The stakes have never been higher this season for Bobcat football as they head into Homecoming Week. Despite three straight losses and a nosedive in their offensive performance, the ‘Cats are back at home and favored to win this Saturday as they face off against South Alabama for a last-ditch effort at bowl eligibility.

Things aren’t all bad for the Bobcats, however. Although they currently sit at fourth in the West Division and near the bottom of current Sun Belt rankings, the Homecoming matchup will see them play a Jaguar team that was most recently placed at 124th out of all 130 FBS teams according to Bill Connelly’s SP+ Rankings. Texas State currently sits at 114th and has a defense ranked much higher at 76th in the nation.

The Bobcats are 4-3 in the past seven Homecoming matchups and last faced South Alabama for Homecoming in 2013 with a 33-31 win. Texas State is 2-0 at home and 2-2 all time against the Jaguars.

With the odds in their favor, the ‘Cats will have to leave their losing streak behind and back up their defense with a more impressive offense. The past two away games have been a routine of decent first halves, a second-half slump with plummeting offensive yards and a defense that can’t quite hold up a sinking ship.

Texas State most recently shouldered a 31-3 loss to the Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday, holding their own against a top Sun Belt Conference team with a 10-3 first half before ultimately falling hard. The game looked salvageable into the second quarter, with senior kicker Justin Rowland bringing in the ‘Cats sole points on the board with a 33-yard field goal. Rowland has been vital to the team in make-or-break moments throughout the season, including kicking the game-winning field goal in a triple-overtime 37-34 upset over Georgia State.

Despite Rowland’s consistency, the Bobcat offense has had opposite results. Sophomore Tyler Vitt stepped in as quarterback after a sack sent starter Gresch Jensen on the bench due to concussion protocol and has not turned much around. The offense combined for 491 yards and put up 17 total points in the past two losses against Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State.

This is Jake Spavital’s first season as head coach for Texas State, and the poor offensive performances hit particularly close to home for the former West Virginia offensive coordinator whose offenses have been ranked in the top ten for several years. Spavital said that he is disheartened by the offensive side of the ball and that they know they will have to pick it up if they can compete this season.

“I am disappointed that the offense can’t score any points right now,” Spavital said. “We are pretty realistic with them, and we see the mistakes that they are making. They understand that we have to play better as a team.”

The Bobcats’ weak offense is a double-edged sword because it affects the team defensively, according to Spavital. Texas State has two linebackers ranked in the top ten in the Sun Belt, and four players sit in the top 25 of the conference. Senior Bryan London II has been a brick wall for the defense, putting in 80 total tackles this season to cap out at second in the Sun Belt Conference, while senior Nikolas Daniels locks in at ninth with 60 tackles and a fifth-place four sacks on the season.

Despite the strong defensive line, a weak offense forces them to stay on the field for far too long and eventually give up touchdowns, Spavital said after the Louisiana loss.

“The defense is playing well, but they would like to have the third quarter back,” Spavital said. “The flood gates opened on them…and we didn’t finish the way we should have. I am pleased with how those kids are playing until there are zeroes on the clock.”

The upcoming South Alabama team is fortunately plagued with the same issues as Texas State to an even greater degree. The ‘Cats’ higher-ranked defense will have to hold up against a Jaguar offense that ranks near the bottom of Connelly’s SP+ standings. South Alabama is coming into the game off of a six-game losing streak and sits at 1-7 for the season at the bottom of the West Division with their lone win against FCS school Jackson State. The Jags average 290.9 yards and 14.6 points per game under redshirt sophomore quarterback Cephus Johnson, who was pulled in Alabama’s last game and replaced by redshirt freshman Desmond Trotter. Either quarterback may start, but the results are projected to largely be the same under Texas State’s solid defense.

The true test for the ‘Cats will be putting points on the board. South Alabama’s defense is significantly better than their offense, coming in at 96th nationally. This could hurt the ‘Cats’ 122nd-ranked offense, especially as the starting quarterback position remains up in the air and the team’s top running back, junior Caleb Twyford, only put up 11 yards in last week’s game. Texas State’s passing-to-running ratio has long been imbalanced, with the ‘Cats making 206 passing yards and 58 rushing yards against Lafayette.

Amid all of the traditions, celebrations and excitement of Homecoming Week, the ‘Cats are favored by 75.8% to win their second conference game on the road to bowl qualification. Each game counts if they are to defeat each upcoming conference matchup and move on to bowl eligibility.

Texas State football will be tested by the South Alabama Jaguars on home turf at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Wack.

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