Coach Dennis Franchione took the team aside to deliver one message before its 13th practice of spring—be consistent.
Franchione said being consistent comes from within the individual player. It is exhibited when they extend themselves—whether it is the extra push at the line of scrimmage, the second effort when a running back is wrapped up or when a wide receiver stretches for an extra yard. The rest of the team will fall in line.
“The coaches can drive you, and the players can drive you,” Franchione said. “At some point, as a player you have to reach down within yourself and do it day-in-day-out. In some instances, young players are going to be inconsistent, but you have to keep striving for consistency. We are seeing the inconsistency more with the guys who are new to their positions.”
The team has one more practice before Saturday’s annual Maroon and Gold Game. The game begins at 1 p.m. and the 2013 senior class will be recognized at halftime. Admission is free.
“The Maroon and Gold Game is the only chance to resemble a game day,” Franchione said. “It’s still not, but it’s as close as we get in college football. How the newer guys react on that day tells you what to expect in the fall.”
The athletes will play four 10-minute quarters, totaling 20 minutes fewer than a regulation Division I game. Franchione said defenses typically dominate the Maroon and Gold game. The offense has fewer snaps at its disposal and less time to tire a defense out.
John Thompson, defensive coordinator, who is in his first season with Texas State, said the defense was inconsistent in practice. The defense has installed the majority of its formations but has yet to execute with desired efficiency, he said.
“We wait too much on something good to happen or a spark instead of making something happen,” Thompson said. “We lose our concentration more than anything else. We have to have a little swagger and make some plays. We have a lot of stuff to clean up.”
David Mayo and Mike Orakpo, senior linebackers, along with Craig Mager, senior defensive back, are the linchpins returning from a defense that ranked first in rushing defense, fourth in total defense and fifth in scoring defense in the Sun Belt Conference last year.
Thompson spent the past two seasons with Arkansas State, where his defense finished fifth in total defense last year in conference, one spot below Texas State.
“We have good guys,” Thompson said. “They’ve been very well-coached. It’s not like I’m coming in here having to fix something that is broken.”
Ben Ijah, senior wide receiver, finished fifth on the team in receiving yards last season. The 6-foot-3-inch receiver should have more first-team reps this year, with seniors Isaiah Battle and Andy Erickson graduating. Texas State was the conference’s last-ranked passing offense last year, averaging 154.8 yards per game.
“Ben (Ijah) has had a good 13 days of practice,” Franchione said. “He’s become probably the most consistent guy. He’s running good routes, making things happen after the catch. He’s set the platform for his senior year.”
Tyler Jones, sophomore quarterback, had a 41.9 total QB rating and ranked 98th in Division I last season, according to ESPN. Texas State attempted the fewest passes in the conference, while run plays represented 61 percent of their offense.
“We’re still probably a bit of a run-first team,” Franchione said. “That ratio depends on (Jones’) continued development and the receivers.”
Franchione said he is dialing up the tempo in practice—primarily to test his young quarterback and create an environment in which he can put the pressure on the defense, instead of the other way around.
“(The offense) played as a team,” Jones said. “Last week, we had some miss hits here and there. You can’t run an offense like that. Everybody did their job, and we had a good turnout. The offense is coming a long. We are getting there.”
This year’s 12-game slate includes non-conference matchups against Navy, Illinois, Tulsa and two nationally televised games on ESPN2 and ESPNU against Louisiana and Arkansas State respectively.
The first game of the regular season is Aug. 30 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Maroon and Gold Game is the last hurdle of spring.
“(The fans) get a glimpse of the team,” Franchione said. “They get to see Tyler Jones, who is much farther along in the offense than when he was a true freshman. It’s a window peak to what August may bring.”