Tommy Gainey looked like an Irish fighter from a century before – wavy blond hair, rangy but stout of chest. Billy Ray Robbins was a big country boy from Marlin – olive complexion, piercing eyes, a crooked grin and a sturdy frame.
The air sizzled when they entered the ring during Fight Night at the school that shall forever be known as Southwest Texas State University. Everyone called it the best fight ever.
Two colleges boys slammed into each other, danced around the ring, connected, swayed. Finally Tommy let loose with a haymaker that exploded into Billy Ray’s chin and sent the big man sprawling on the canvas. Tommy, my fraternity brother, was named Fighter of the Night. Billy Ray would soon join the fraternity, too. I was in the stands, a stupid pledge worried at the threat of being coerced into entering the ring against some unknown opponent. I had a recurring (no kidding) nightmare afterward that I was set to fight football great Earl Campbell.
What does this have to do with football at the school some now call Texas State? Not much, but if you replace Tommy with 8-2 Utah State and Billy Ray with 8-1 Louisiana Tech, you see the problem the fledgling BCS (Big-Time Football!) Bobcats are facing. Utah State and La. Tech are the best the dying Western Athletic Conference has to offer. They face off in eight days in a grudge match that should be full of sparks and its own version of haymakers. In the meantime, Texas State is the 3-5 pledge, the new kid who must be pushed aside.
Utah State did just that last week. The Bobcats opened with a strong drive, moving 64 yards in 14 plays, but it ended with Shaun Rutherford’s ill-advised pass to the end zone was intercepted. Aggie QB Chuckie “In Love” Keeton pulled out his submachine gun arm and rat-a-tat-tatted four touchdowns and ran for another for a 35-0 halftime lead.
The Bobcats did find some second-half defense. End Jamie Clavell-Head intercepted a screen pass that Marcus “Spicy” Curry ran in from five yards out for the only Texas State score. The D prevented a Utah State TD when Damion McMiller stripped the ball on the Bobcat four-yard line. A brutal Chase “Charlie” Harper hit created another interception in the fourth. But it was small solace in a game that had long been decided.
This Saturday Louisiana Tech comes to Bobcat Stadium, and the Bulldogs are arguably better than Utah State. La. Tech is No. 20 in the BCS standings. They average 52.4 points a game and have amassed more than 500 yards of offense in each of their last five contests. The Bulldogs only loss was a 59-57 slugfest with Texas A&M. Bulldog QB Colby Cameron has thrown for 2,946 yards and 24 touchdowns without an interception in 358 attempts. Freshman Kenneth Dixon has 16 TDs on the ground in La Tech’s last five games.
If they have a weakness it’s on pass defense where they are allowing 344 yards a game. Can the Bobcats take advantage or are they about to enter the ring against a team that collectively is as dangerous as Earl Campbell in his prime aiming to connect with a glass jaw? Here’s hoping Texas State is competitive for more than one drive this week, but I’m not betting on it. Watch out for the haymaker, Bobcats.
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