Texas State will encounter soon-to-be Sun Belt Conference member Idaho for its sixth possible win of the season, the most for the Bobcats since joining the FBS.
Coach Dennis Franchione and the Bobcats are 0-2 on the road against the Vandals. Idaho currently holds a 1-7 record, and the team is allowing 45.13 points per game on defense. The one time the Vandals’ defense limited an opposing offense to less than 40 points was in their homecoming game against Temple. Idaho registered a 26-24 victory over the Owls.
“They got thrown into the conference realignment phase without a place to go,” Franchione said. “As a result, their record is a little deceiving. They’ve played a tough schedule.”
Idaho faced Wyoming and lost 42-10 Sept. 7, a team the Bobcats defeated in San Marcos 42-21. The Vandals played Washington State Sept. 21 and were shutout by the Cougars 42-0. The team was beaten by undefeated and 16th-ranked Fresno State 61-14 Oct. 5. Most recently, SEC conference member Ole Miss gave Idaho its seventh loss of the season Oct. 26, 48-24. The Vandals defense allowed 292 yards rushing with a 6.5 average per run against Ole Miss.
The Bobcats have averaged 192.2 yards of rushing per game for the season, good enough for 42nd in the NCAA. The ball club ranks first in the Sun Belt Conference in average time of possession with 33:23.
The Bobcats have a slim win margin of 0.7 points this year. Texas State’s recent 33-31 victory over South Alabama marked the first time the team has won back-to-back conference games since 2009.
“I think we just have to understand that we’re going to have to play all 60 minutes,” Franchione said. “To get a win in this league is tough. There’s not a whole lot of separation amongst these teams.”
Vandals quarterback Taylor Davis, who threw for 166 yards and one touchdown against Ole Miss, leads Idaho offensively. The lone receiving touchdown came by the hands of Dezmon Epps on a 62-yard reception with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. Epps recorded 107 all-purpose yards.
Last week, the Bobcat defense gave up 21 points in the fourth quarter. Possessing a 10-point lead with 7:39 to go, the defense allowed two 40-yard-plus touchdown passes to Jaguar receiver Danny Woodson. Senior safety Justin Iwuji’s interception returned for a touchdown gave the Bobcats the initial 10-point lead.
“It felt great,” Iwuji said. “I think that was my first career pick-six. As a defense we just try to make plays. We’re always learning each game, and we’re trying to build on our mistakes and get better.”
Idaho punter Austin Rehkow kicked seven punts for 351 yards, averaging 50.1 yards per punt, and booted one inside the opposing 20-yard line last week. Rehkow ranks 11th in the FBS in net punting average with 40.4 yards.
After throwing a career-high 218 yards, freshman quarterback Tyler Jones and the Bobcat offense look to become more balanced as opposed to relying only on the ground game. Texas State averages 52.5 fewer passing yards to the running game.
Currently leading the Bobcats in receptions is senior wide receivers Isaiah Battle with 193 yards and Andy Erickson with 167 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Smith adds 96 total yards, with both Erickson and Smith averaging 9.3 yards per reception.
“I think the chemistry is growing between me and the receivers,” Jones said. “The coaches tell me to go out and do what I’ve been coached to do. That is the approach I take. I don’t want to force anything. I just want to make the right decision.”