Texas Tech’s fourth opponent, the Texas State Bobcats, come to town this weekend just in time for the first sellout of the season at Jones AT&T Stadium. This game is Tech’s fourth this year against a team from the greatest football state in the country and wraps up a fairly uneventful non-conference slate.
Texas State starts their second season in division 1-A at 2-0 and gunning for their first win against a BCS-level school. Last year’s game didn’t go they way the Bobcats hoped, opening their newly renovated stadium in San Marcos in front of a record crowd, as Tech rolled to a 58-10 win. That kind of embarrassment should serve as enough motivation for any team to knock off a heavy favorite on the road; but, motivation itself may not be enough.
What the Red Raiders saw, and shutdown, last week against TCU is very similar to what Texas State likes to do on offense. The Bobcats recorded just six total touchdowns in their first two games; five on the ground and one through the air. This offense leans heavily on the running game and the read-option in particular. Both quarterbacks combined for 76 yards rushing and one touchdown on 28 attempts in the first two games, including senior Tyler Arndt, who saw playing time last year against Tech.
The leading rusher for the Bobcats is sophomore running back Chris Nutall, who’s collected 169 yards and two touchdowns on just 18 attempts this season. That’s a good enough average for 9.4 yards per carry, the longest being a 77-yard touchdown run against Prairie View A&M. At 5-8/185, Nutall may seem small, but he’s built like a bowling ball and runs with deceptive speed when he gets an open field.
So far this season the Red Raider defense hasn’t had a problem defending talented running backs, but TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin ran for over 100 yards last week. Texas State’s multiple options in the backfield could present a problem on Saturday, especially if guys get worn out and miss tackles, a la late against the ‘Frogs. The good news for Tech is Texas State likes to run the ball outside, where guys like Terrance Bullitt and Pete Robertson have clear advantages.
Tech struggled to score points against TCU, that’s been well documented. However, Texas State’s defense promises a far less daunting test for true freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield. In the season opener against Southern Miss, the Bobcat defense gave up 377 yards through the air and another 43 on the ground. Thanks to six takeaways, Texas State held on to win 22-15, but not before being out gained by 175 yards.
If there’s one strength on this Bobcat defense, it’s opportunism. Six turnovers don’t just fall into your lap, so Franchione must be doing something right. Tech’s young quarterback needs to be much more careful with the football than he was last week.
That being said, it could be argued two of Mayfield’s three interceptions against TCU – a supremely better defense than Texas State’s – weren’t his fault. I fully expect the Red Raiders to roll this Saturday.