Six forced turnovers and a late 17-yard touchdown scramble by senior quarterback Tyler Arndt helped the Bobcats rally over Southern Miss Aug. 31 with a score of 22-15.
This marked the second-straight season Texas State has opened with a win on the road against a Conference USA team.
After trailing the whole game, the Golden Eagles took their first lead with a 36-yard field goal by kicker Corey Acosta. Southern Miss seized a 15-14 lead with 5:43 remaining in the 4th quarter.
After giving up 12 unanswered points, Arndt led a 75-yard drive that included a 3rd and 19 conversion to senior wide receiver Andy Erickson to continue the late surge by the Bobcats.
“Coach Mike Schultz had some good calls in that drive,” said Coach Dennis Franchione. “The 3rd and 19 was a great call, the next few calls we went no huddle for a brief period and hit a couple. We executed well, and (Arndt) executed well. We had one drive in each half. Fortunately, it came at a good time for us. Really to come from behind and win on the road in the fourth quarter is something we haven’t done yet.”
None of the late game action would have been possible without the six forced turnovers by the Bobcats’ defense. The first two possessions by the Golden Eagles each resulted in fumbles including an untouched 44-yard touchdown by junior cornerback Craig Mager, who wrestled the ball away from Tyre’oune Holmes to give Texas State an early 7-0 lead. Southern Miss had three fumbles in the first eight minutes of the game.
“Man it feels (really) good,” Mager said. “I’m happy to claim the one on defense first (touchdown). I’m happy with how everyone played. We played tremendous on the defensive side, and its nice to see all the hard work paying off.”
The defense finished with four forced fumbles and two interceptions by junior linebacker David Mayo. The Texas State defensive unit held Southern Miss’ running game to an average of 1-yard per rush. The collective pressure helped the Bobcats accumulate three sacks for a loss of 26-yards and eight tackles for losses for a total of 37-yards. Southern Miss was 5 out of 20 on 3rd down conversions and 0 out of 4 for 4th down.
“With takeaways we preach that from the word go,” said defensive coordinator Craig Naivar. “That’s one of our things, we talk about ‘my ball,’ creating takeaways through a bunch of different drills. When you stress those things and work hard, good things happen to those who work hard. We’re fortunate those happened, and we’ll continue to stress that. We set the bar pretty high now.”
Finishing with 215 total yards of offense, Texas State was not emphasizing offensive production but rather efficient and timely opportunistic plays. Arndt completed 13 out of 19 passing attempts for 111 yards with no interceptions.
Riding Erickson’s momentum after a 29-yard punt return, red-shirt freshman quarterback Jordan Moore found sophomore running back Robert Lowe in the flats and broke multiple tackles for a 23-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Texas State’s final touchdown was a 17-yard read option in the 4th quarter by Arndt who kept the ball up the middle.
“From an offensive perspective things didn’t really go our way all night,” Arndt said. “I think if you hang in there, (we have) a chance at the end of the game. We have playmakers all over the offensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, the offense struggled all night and we knew something was due, it took all 11 of us to drive down there and get that last score to go ahead.”
Senior punter Zach Robinson ended with nine punts for an average of 45.1 yards and a long of 60. Robinson finished with 406 total punting yards, more than either team’s total offensive yards.
Follow Samuel Rubbelke on Twitter: @SamuelRubbelke