For the first time of the season, the Texas State football team had some time to breathe.
The bye week even gave the team a rare opportunity to relax.
“I went back home and enjoyed my time off, rested the legs a little bit, watched college football,” said Ryan Melton, junior offensive lineman.
In many ways, the bye week served as a clean break for a team that stumbled through its non-conference slate.
The average margin of the three losses this season is 31.3 points per game.
And yet the non-conference slate isn’t enough to submarine an entire season. Eight conference games remain.
With that, there’s some hope.
“The way I look it is, we have eight more games to play and we can every one,” Melton said. “If we can do that, we can go to a bowl game. We just have to go out there and leave no doubt.”
A different team: The last time Texas State traveled to Lafayette, Louisiana was in 2013.
The Bobcats left with a 48-24 loss and little offense to show from. Brandon Smith scored 14 points on kickoff returns – 100 and 92 yards. Otherwise, the margin would have been much larger.
Texas State’s offense stumbled to 10 points and 196 yards.
“We were pretty young across the board,” said Jason Johnson, wide receivers coach. “We just didn’t do the things we needed to do as an offense.”
Circumstances may change the team’s fortunate this time around.
Tyler Jones, junior quarterback, walked into Cajun Field as a freshman. He wasn’t prepared to handle the pressure and it showed. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 66 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception.
Jones has made 23 starts since his last road game against Louisiana-Lafayette, with victories in 11 games.
“That’s the biggest difference – we have experience,” Johnson said. “There’s no better teacher than experience to get us to this point compared to where we were two years ago.”
The Cajun way: Louisiana-Lafayette has been here before.
More specifically, the Ragin’ Cajuns have started 1-3 in two consecutive seasons. Last season ended with seven wins in the last eight games to secure a fourth consecutive New Orleans bowl bid.
Louisiana-Lafayette added its fourth consecutive victory in a bowl game, as well.
“I know that they are good football team,” Melton said. “They’ve played us well the last few times.”
The model for turning the season around is staring Texas State in the face this week. All it takes is seven wins in the last eight games.
“I hope we can do something like that,” Melton said.
Melton paused and rephrased.
“I know we will do something like that,” Melton said. “It’s our time. We have to.”
Following Will Johnson: Texas State’s stable of kickers seems to be growing with each passing year.
Last year, it was Will Johnson. This year, it’s Lumi Kaba.
The former signed as an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans and the latter is trying to make the same mark on the program.
“Replacing Will Johnson who made it to the NFL is kind of tough,” Kaba said. “To live up to his standard is kinda hard, trying to maintain it and do the same.”
Kaba already accomplished what Johnson did not – earn a nickname.
After his first game against Florida State, the ESPN broadcasters called him “The Legend of San Marcos.”
“When I first heard it, I honestly laughed a lot,” Kaba said. “I kind of avoid it because I don’t want it to get to my head and me going out there and feeling like I’m the shit.”
Kaba’s early returns have been mixed. Through four games, he’s averaging 41.4 yards per punt and a 40 percent conversion rate on field goals. Kaba is 1 of 4 on field goals exceeding 30 yards.
All marks are lower than Johnson last year.
“If you have a big leg, you can’t use it if the field goal isn’t good or your punt is shanked,” Kaba said. “I pride myself on having a big leg, but I rather pride myself on being more consistent.”
As of now, the consistency in the kicking game hasn’t been there.