Lesson for Texas Tech: Bobcats Bite Cougars
Texas State beats up on UH, sets sights on Red Raiders
By Joe O'Connell, 9:12AM, Fri. Sep. 7, 2012
Dear Texas Tech,
The rules have changed. See you Saturday.
Best, Coach Fran
For the big boys of college football, early-season games are about pummeling smaller schools, trying out new schemes and pumping up fans. Sometimes those underdogs fight back and come into halftime ahead. In the locker room, the big-time coach’s job is to remind his team who they are. Then they go back out and act like winners while the little guys roll over and play dead.
Thus was the expected script when Texas State opened the season last week at the University of Houston. The Bobcats were six-touchdown underdogs playing their first real game as a Football Bowl Subdivision team, but they entered the stadium like champions. Their first drive went eight plays and 65 yards capped by a 21-yard toss from lanky and shaggy Shaun Rutherford to bruising senior Marcus Curry. Houston responded with a 50-yard field goal.
Texas State’s offensive line was dwarfed by the Cougar defenders in average size, but the Bobcats created massive holes, including on the next drive for Curry to dance 73 yards to another touchdown. The run was chosen by ESPN Sportscenter as the No. 8 national play of the day.
Houston came back with what would be its only touchdown of the night when David Piland connected with Larry McDuffey who took off for 64 yards.
And that was just the first quarter. The Bobcats answered in the second stanza with Curry scoring from two yards out. Texas State added two field goals before the half and, more important, kept the Cougars from doing much of anything.
Halftime score: Texas State-27, Houston-10.
This is when underdogs play dead. Houston’s halftime adjustment was to angrily rush the line of scrimmage. It worked and the Bobcat offense went three and out. The Cougars then marched down the field on cue and found the end zone. But the guy catching the ball was a Bobcat defender. The best the Cougs could muster from the point on was a field goal. The Bobcats added one of their own and the 30-13 shocker was real.
Count me among the few outside the stadium who saw the game. I had to add a special package to get Comcast, and the live feed was blacked out, but I stuck around for the replay. What it showed was an almost total domination by the upstart Bobcats of a team that went 13-1 last year, albeit with a much better quarterback in Case Keenum.
It was so bad, that Houston offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt resigned after the game.
Rutherford was supposed to share QB duties. Nope. He’s a keeper. So is the Bobcat defense and Chase Harper lived up his billing as one of the nation’s top tight ends, and probably the only one who plays a little defense for fun.
Texas State’s decision to rehire Dennis Franchione, who had wandered off to some other schools including Texas A&M and Alabama, also looks genius. The only slip I saw was a failure to adjust offensively to Houston’s aggressive defense in the third quarter. But that’s a quibble given that the Bobcats held the ball for more than 10 minutes in each of the 15-minute quarters, and Houston could manage only 1 of 13 third-down tries. The Bobcats even received 10 votes in the Associated Press poll—more than Texas A&M.
So what of Texas Tech, which enters a newly enhanced, 30,000-seat Bobcat Stadium this Saturday in San Marcos? They pummeled Texas State 50-10 last year in Lubbock. Last week, Tech pounded Northwestern State 44-6 at home. Seth “Lonesome” Doege completed 23 of 34 passes for 199 yards—rather measly stats in the old days of coach and part-time pirate Mike Leach, but respectable in the new Tommy Tuberville era. Eric Stephens ran for two touchdowns, and, probably most daunting, the Tech defense held the Demons to 84 total yards of offense.
They’re a good team. But so are the Bobcats, who actually led Tech at the half last year 10-9, and were making a go of it in the third quarter before self-destructing. The Houston win is Texas State’s biggest victory in two decades, but they are still fighting for respect. The Austin and San Antonio daily papers ignored the game, picking up wire service coverage of it and then scrambling to give lip service this week. The Austin American-Statesman even misspelled Rutherford’s first name, confusing him, I can only assume, with former local weatherman Shawn Rutherford.
Tech is a two-touchdown favorite in the wake of the Houston win. If you’d bet $100 on Texas State last week, you might have come out $12,000 richer. This week? Look for some raucous tailgating in the parking lot, and perhaps the Bobcats’ other quarterback Tyler Arndt to play a bit. Don’t look for Texas State to roll over and play dead. That ain’t gonna happen.