Coach Dennis Franchione anticipated a defensive battle prior to the Maroon and Gold Game. He said defenses typically dominate spring games because the offense is generally behind the curve compared to the defense. However, this was not the case.
The Bobcats combined for 59 points including 23 in the final quarter. The Gold team, tabbed as the favorite by Franchione, defeated the Maroon team, 30-29.
“You know you always have mixed emotions as a coach,” Franchione said. “There were a lot of good things about today. We came out pretty healthy, and that’s always a big criteria. We got to see some players in situations and that’s a good thing.”
Fred Nixon, sophomore quarterback, scored the final touchdown of the game, cutting the deficit to one point. Nixon converted the ensuing two-point conversion to Bradley Miller, senior tight end. Miller finished with five catches, 142 yards and two touchdowns.
“Brad has always been valuable to us because of the flexibility to play him in tight or play him out wide,” Franchione said. “He’s not the bulkiest tight end and he’s not the fastest wide out, but he is tall and lanky. He understands how to run routes. He is a good red zone weapon. He showed that today.”
Miller’s longest reception of the game—a 78-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to seven points—was intended for C.J. Best, junior wide receiver. Junior quarterback Randy Price’s pass deflected off Best’s hands into Miller’s, and he ran into the end zone without being touched.
s was a fun game,” Miller said. “All of the guys were into it. We never lost hope on the Gold side of the ball. I kept my team going. We really wanted to win.”
Chris Nutall, junior running back, ran for 112 yards on 12 carries. Nutall scored two touchdowns in the second quarter.
“Chris is a load to bring down,” Franchione said. “He’s got strong legs—he’s playing the best football he’s played since he’s been here. We ran the stretch play today and that probably wasn’t his strength in the previous year or two and now he’s learned patience. He understands that play better and he ran it well today.”
Tyler Jones, sophomore quarterback, completed three of eight attempts with one interception in his first start since his freshman season.
Brixx Hawthorne, senior safety, corralled the pass with one hand and returned the interception for a 84-yard touchdown.
Jones, who wore a black jersey indicating that he could not be hit, chased Hawthorne down before giving up pursuit. Hawthorne did not record a tackle last season, and he’s been utilized as a safety, middle and weak-side linebacker at Texas State.
“I read my tackle and guard and they were going out,” Hawthorne said. “I knew it was a screen. Honestly, I just got lucky—I just put my hand out there and it fell in my hand. The rest is history.”
Jones played a few drives before giving the reins to Nixon and Price, who combined for 160 yards on 13 attempts. Franchione said having a reliable backup quarterback is important, though it isn’t clear who will be the primary backup this season.
“The development of the backup is important,” Franchione said. “Hopefully Tyler (Jones) will make it through the season healthy. He needs to understand to not play as reckless.”
Though Jones completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, he averaged 6.3 yards per attempt, lower than his 7.0 from last year.
“Tyler really needed the spring, even though he played in a tot of games,” Franchione said. “He wasn’t really good fundamentally in a lot of things. That being said, he made a lot of strides, and it’s nice to know who our guy is. There is no controversy on who our guy is. That’s huge.”
The Bobcats have 19 more practices at their disposal before their regular season opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“You’re never satisfied as a coach,” Franchione said. “You want to be farther along— you want to do more. We aren’t even close to beating another team yet. But we’ve gotten to a point where we have a foundation.”