As the clock ticked down the final moments of the ESPN U-broadcasted game, the down-by-two Bobcat football team failed a critical two-point conversion against the Georgia Southern Eagles, ultimately costing the conference-winless team another game.
The Bobcats lost the Thursday, Oct. 11 game 15-13 after what was almost a fourth-quarter comeback, dropping Texas State football’s record to 0-3 in conference play and 1-5 overall.
Georgia Southern’s feared triple option, Wesley Fields, Matt LaRoche and Shai Werts, were stunted to 58 rushes for 154 yards and one turnover. The Georgia Southern Eagles moved to 5-1 on for their overall play, with the only loss coming Sept. 15 from No. 4 ranked Clemson Tigers.
Head Coach Everett Withers said the loss was frustrating and the coaching staff would continue to work to “get over the hump.”
“Football is not fun, winning football is fun,” Withers said. “Life’s not fun if you’re not winning at it. We have to find a way to win at football and life.”
Withers said that field position became extremely important as the team dealt the Eagles’ triple option and the Bobcats punted poorly. True freshman Clayton Stewart punted seven times on the night, averaging 33.6 yards per punt. However, Withers said the game’s early defensive stops can be credited to the specific training the Bobcats went through to face the Eagles.
“You can’t do it in four days, I’ve tried that,” Withers said. “You can’t get all the components of stopping what the triple option is in four days. We took two days out of spring practice to devote strictly to Georgia Southern, we took two days during training camp to devote strictly to Georgia Southern. We took a day and a half during the bye week. Maybe we should have been working on Lafayette more, I don’t know, but we took a day and a half during the bye week to prepare for Georgia Southern. I think it paid off for us defensively in a lot of ways.”
Junior cornerback JaShon Waddy was said that as frustrating as the loss may be, the team will use it as motivation going forward.
“Honestly, I just use it as motivation just to see how close we are,” Waddy said. “We played our best game and we still should have come out with a win. So, I just use it as motivation and add fuel to my fire.”
The team set out to pick up their pace after last week’s loss with Louisiana Lafayette, tight end Keenan Brown said. However, the Bobcats failed to put up any points until the ball was in Brown’s hands for a three-yard push into the end zone following his 61-yard carry, the longest carry for the Bobcats this season.
“We just have to start off fast,” Brown said. “That was our mindset going into the game early: starting off fast and determined. Probably didn’t work as best as possible, but we’re going to get it right.”
A wideout and tight end by trade, Brown said his season-record carry had been his first handoff since his days in Little League Football.
Going into the game, the Bobcats were projected to be shut out by multiple scores from the Eagles. In the end, it was a two-point deficit that caught the Bobcats. A fourth-quarter play from quarterback Tyler Vitt connected with Jeremiah Haydel for a touchdown, leaving the score at 13-15.
The Bobcats failed to get the two-point conversion and then tried for an onside kick to get the ball back, but Georgia Southern maintained possession to the game’s end.
In a continuing confusion over personnel, quarterback Tyler Vitt started over Willie Jones III but was later pulled, only to be brought back in on crucial conversion or scoring efforts.
Withers said the team was looking for a spark to get things going offensively, but the team’s failure to establish a run game at any point in the game lead to the two quarterbacks unable to produce.
“Tyler (Vitt) is doing the best he can, we got to protect him better,” Withers said. “We have to be able to run the football so he can be effective at throwing the football. Tyler (Vitt) struggled because we couldn’t run.”
The loss marks the fourth straight for the Bobcats after a 41-31 loss against South Alabama University, 42-27 loss against the University of Lousiana atLafayettee and a 25-21 loss against the University of Texas at San Antonio. Withers said the two-point loss is another heartbreaking reminder of how close the team is to edging out wins.
“The hardest thing about, when you take something over that you blow up and start over, is when do you get over that hump,” Withers said. “That’s kind of where we are right now, we’re kind of stuck getting over that hump. I think it’s coming soon, I hope next week. It’s as frustrating as it was year one when we didn’t have a chance to win.”
Withers said the team playing for him now is a night-and-day difference from those that played under him during his first two years at Texas State.
“Year one (2016) it was just, ‘Go play hard, boys, maybe a ball will bounce your way,'” Withers said. “Now we’re talking about winning games.”
The Bobcats will have a few extra days of rest before the Oct. 20 matchup against the Lousiana Monroe Warhawks at Malone Stadium in Lousiana. Withers said the time will be critical to helping the team move forward.
“We’ll be able to get some more treatment tomorrow and Saturday and we (will) get guys like (defensive end) Dean Taylor back,” Withers said. “There’s a handful of guys that are somewhat nicked up, mid-season it’s gonna happen. Hopefully, we get those guys back.”