Texas State will look to even its conference record for this season Saturday when the team hosts South Alabama for Homecoming at Bobcat Stadium.
The Jaguars recorded a season-high 257 yards on the ground against Kent State last week primarily due to the efforts of junior running backs Jay Jones and Cris Dinham. Jones gained 99 yards while Dinham added 67 during the game. This feat was the highest total for both players during their first year wearing Jaguar jerseys. Junior running back Kendall Houston contributed 43 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
“Their offense is pretty balanced as one of their success points,” said Coach Dennis Franchione. “They’ve got a few more passing yards than rushing yards, but you have to defend both of them. Their (running) backs are good players.”
The Bobcats are one of three teams in the conference allowing less than 400 yards of total offense. Texas State has forced 15 turnovers, placing them second in conference play. Opposing offenses have been able to convert an average of 36.2 percent on third down conversions against the Bobcats.
However, Texas State may have to face South Alabama’s balanced offense without their leading tackler, junior linebacker David Mayo. Mayo injured his leg early in the Georgia State game and did not return. Mayo leads the team with 53 tackles and three interceptions on the season.
“As soon as I knew David went down, I knew I had to step up,” said senior linebacker Damion McMiller, who recorded 15 tackles in Mayo’s absence. “The coaches told me big players step up in big games.”
Texas State’s offensive focus has been on the ground game, due in part to the development of freshman quarterback Tyler Jones. The defense will look to keep opposing offenses at bay with limited offensive production coming from the Bobcat offense. Texas State ranks last in the Sun Belt for offensive scoring.
“Definitely, we do feel the pressure every week,” McMiller said. “At the same time, we’re always there to encourage our offense.”
The Bobcats have relied on sophomore running backs Robert Lowe and Chris Nutall. The duo has accounted for 14 touchdowns, 965 rushing yards and average 6.4 yards per carry each.
“I’m just focused on helping our team win,” Nutall said. “Rob Lowe and I talk before every game. (I) be like, ‘Rob come on, man. We got to show out, do something for the team.’”
Exceeding his career high in the past three games, Lowe set a personal goal to rush for 1,000 yards on the season. With five games left in conference play, Lowe is 381 yards away from his goal.
“My goal is to get better every game,” Lowe said. “I know I have the potential, and I can always get better. I feel like I’m in my groove now, and hopefully I can hit (200 yards rushing in a single game).”
Texas State enters its Homecoming game against the Jaguars with two redshirt freshmen and three sophomores with starting experience on the offensive line. In addition to the injection of youth, the Bobcats average 315 pounds per lineman while the 2011 group averaged 280 pounds.
“We wanted Tyler Jones to not be in a compromised situation,” Franchione said. “We felt we could run the football. Our offensive line had maybe their best game of the year. We left 10 points out there. We had to kick a field goal getting down there and then had the interception. We could have had 7 to 10 more points last game.”