Texas State barely fought off Stephen F. Austin’s 20-point comeback, managing to hold on for a win against the Lumberjacks Saturday evening.
The Bobcats won 41-37 in front of 17,188 spectators at home Saturday night to improve to 2-1 on the season.
“I told my players all week that this would be a game where somebody is going to have to make a stop, or make a drive at the end of the game,” coach Dennis Franchione said. “One side of the ball or the other would have to pick up the slack.”
Quarterback Shaun Rutherford picked up the offensive slack, passing for 301 yards and three touchdowns on 21 out of 26 completions, was not sacked and did not throw an interception.
“I thought Shaun (Rutherford) had a darn good night tonight,” Franchione said. “Running the offense and making the reads that he made. I’m glad we won. It was a typical (SFA vs.) Texas State game, unfortunately.”
Wide receiver Isaiah Battle accounted for almost half of the Bobcats’ offensive production with 199 all-purpose yards, including a 98-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. Wide receiver Jafus Gaines helped Texas State on the returning side of play, averaging 39.5 return yards on his six returns.
“The game was definitely a must-win,” Battle said. “We had to show our fans and our community that the Tech game wasn’t what Texas State had to offer.”
Texas State jumped out to a 41-17 lead thanks in part to Rutherford’s 12 straight completions to start the night. Tight end Chase Harper provided arguably the biggest highlight of the game, snagging a high, one-handed pass on his way to the end zone. Harper finished with 48 receiving yards and two touchdowns on five receptions.
SFA was expected to bring their passing attack to San Marcos and the Lumberjacks did not disappoint. Quarterback Brady Attaway threw 68 times, completing 44, finishing with 385 yards passing and three touchdowns in the loss. Attaway was intercepted twice, one by Texas State’s Craig Mager, his second of the season. The Lumberjacks racked up 505 offensive yards.
“As a defensive back you like to play against a spread. It gives us more chances to make plays,” cornerback Darryl Morris said. “But, to play a traditional offense who runs the ball and pounds it is a little better on our legs. We like the challenge. Whatever the offense wants to throw at us, we will be ready for the challenge next week.”
The Lumberjacks had a chance to win the game and pull a big upset in the final stages. With roughly five minutes to go, SFA could have gone for it on fourth down to try to keep their drive going, but elected to punt. After the Bobcats went three-and-out, SFA again had a chance and took it to get into Bobcat territory with six seconds left. The Lumberjacks’ fourth down pass attempt to keep their hopes alive was broken up, handing Texas State the slim win. SFA never took the deep shot down the field, which some might have questioned in retrospect.
“We wanted to give ourselves a chance to get down there and score,” Coach J.C. Harper said. “And (the players) were just trying to do what we asked them to do.”
The Bobcats scored all 41 points in the first two and a half quarters but failed to put points on the board the rest of the game. Texas State gave up more than 500 yards of total offense for the second straight week and has allowed 89 points in the last two games.
“I’m an old school coach, and giving up 500 yards is always concerning,” Franchione said. “I watch these games on Saturdays and see the scores and yardage totals, and I ask, ‘are these video games or real games?’ Football has changed. Do we wish we want to give up 500 yards? No, but one more point is all that matters.”
Texas State will take on Nevada this Saturday and the Wolf Pack’s nation-leading rusher Stefphon Jefferson.
Follow Cameron Irvine on Twitter: @txstcamirvine