The Texas State football team will travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., to take on Southern Miss, a team that went 0-12 last season, snapping its 18-year streak of winning records.
The Golden Eagles hired Todd Monken, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator, to rejuvenate the institution. With a second coaching change in the past two years, consistency will be valuable for Monken if he hopes to restore a senior class accustomed to winning.
The Golden Eagles recorded a 12-2 season in 2011 and went on to beat undefeated Houston to win the Conference USA Championship while finishing 20th in the Associated Press poll.
“This is a proud program we’re getting ready to play,” said Coach Dennis Franchione. “It’s hard for me to pinpoint what went wrong last year. The year before they went 12-1 and won the conference. This has always been a good football team and a good program. I’m sure whatever they went through last year was correctable.”
As many coaches know, veteran or newcomer, the season opener can be a surprise. One can never really know what to expect or how to tell if the scout team was beneficial enough to give legitimate insight on the opponent’s systems.
However, both Franchione and Monken may encounter the same battle with uncertainty by not knowing which quarterback will take the field.
“I suppose they’re trying to find their way a bit,” Franchione said. “I know what it’s like to be a first-year head coach. I’m sure they’ll have a capable guy back there. None of them have played a great deal, but they all have ability.”
As for the Bobcats, the two-way battle for quarterback between senior Tyler Arndt and redshirt freshman Jordan Moore can be expected to continue all the way to kickoff.
“We’ll make that decision later in the week,” Franchione said. “I think it’s a fair statement to say both players will play in the game. I think both have earned the right and deserve to do that. The separation between them is very small if any. I think as coaches, we’ve gone back and forth between them. Somebody’s got to go out for the first snap, and we’ll see how they do and go from there and be prepared to adjust.”
Arndt and Moore will have their work cut out for them against an experienced senior defensive core. Four of the top five returning defensive backs, the top two linebackers Alan Howze and Dylan Reda, and 6-foot-3-inch 308 lb. defensive tackle Khyri Thornton are all entering their final year of collegiate ball.
The defense will look to dismantle Monken’s raw offensive line that lost four players who collected 159 career starts. The Golden Eagles two seniors Ed Preston and Vincent Brown are the only linemen who have more than 19 games of starting experience.
“Use speed and power. That’s how you can get the edge against anyone,” said senior defensive linemen Jamie Clavell-Head. “I think it’s pretty even. We’re going to have to really work. It’s going to be a fourth quarter win.”
With three days left until the start of the season, the Bobcats are prepared for the up-tempo Big 12-style offense that Monken will bring from Oklahoma State to Southern Miss.
“I think we match up well,” said senior safety Xavier Daniels. “We’re ready for their up-tempo offense. We’ve dealt with up-tempo offenses before with Texas Tech and others. We have to go in each game and execute the game plan.”