Texas State Bobcats Remain Invisible

Host Nevada Wolf Pack

Texas State Bobcats Remain Invisible

It’s not easy being invisible.

Just ask the Texas State Bobcats. For much of the past 30 years they’ve been a footnote at best in what should be expected to be home television markets in Austin and San Antonio. It was true even in 2005 when they fought their way through a good chunk of a national football playoff before faltering.

This year the Bobcats are aiming to be noticed, to play big-boy ball as they move into true FBS (Big-Time Football!) play. It’s why when Michael Corcoran wanted to write about the University of Texas Longhorns in this space with his "Hornucopia" column, I chose to cover the quirky adolescence of Texas State. It’s a jerky, pimply faced process somewhat like watching a baby bird sprout feathers. Heads turned at the surprise win over the University of Houston to open the season. The Austin American-Statesman actually sent a staff writer to cover the overcapacity crowd of 33,006 at the home opener with Tech. She promptly misspelled Texas State quarterback Shaun Rutherford’s name and Tech crushed the Bobcats.

Last week’s crowd of 17,188 was larger than any for a Bobcat Stadium game last year, when the field’s capacity was a scant 16,000, but half of the week before. The Bobcats offense was impressive behind Rutherford’s 301 yards passing – frequently to old Blinn College pal Isaisah Battle and with one early touchdown toss to Chase Harper. Rutherford’s 98-yard highlight reel TD pass to Battle was the longest in school history.

The Statesman included the game in its box of FBS game predictions, but later in the week misspelled Rutherford’s name again. Invisible. Get it? To be fair, after a cost-cutting move by Cox, the Statesman’s copy editors are now stationed in sunny Palm Beach, Fla., and likely had never, ever heard of Texas State. The San Antonio paper ran a brief Associated Press recap of the game. Invisible.

But that’s the problem this season is meant to overcome. The Bobcats survived a strong comeback by Stephen F. Austin last week 41-37. Texas State’s defense looked at times porous and befuddled, but stout enough to hold the line. An interception of Lumberjack QB Brady “Boy” Attaway’s pass in the end zone was a key to slowing him down just enough. But Attaway still finished with 44 completions and 385 yards passing.

Rutherford’s boys – the quarterback competition with Tyler Arndt is quickly becoming a one-sided affair – looked solid. Will it be enough this Saturday as the University of Nevada toughs arrive in town from Reno? They provide perhaps the perfect role model for the school that shall forever be known as Southwest Texas State yet shortened its name to Texas State, let’s be honest, for the sake of forging a new football identity that in turn is intended to up the academic ante at the university with the fifth-highest enrollment in Texas.

You see, Nevada was Texas State 20 years ago. In Reno they still brag about the 1923 0-0 tie with powerhouse California, which won 50 straight games. In other words, they kissed an awful purty sister. Yes, and Bobcat faithful are still talking about the back-to-back Division II national championships in the early ‘80s. But take note: Nevada opened this season with a 31-24 win at Cal. They’re not living completely in the past, and the Bobcats shouldn’t either. This season the Wolf Pack also has beaten Hawaii 69-24 and Northwestern State 45-34. Their lone loss was a 32-31 heartbreaker to a very good South Florida team coached by Skip Holtz.

Nevada made the move to what is now called FBS ball in 1992. Their stadium was expanded to more than 30,000 seats. Then they did the improbable – the Wolf Pack won the Big West Conference championship in that first year. No team new to Big-Time Football had done it before. It took a 48-47 come-from-behind victory over Utah State to seal the deal.

The move to FBS can be a sloppy mess or it can work. It worked for Nevada, which finished 13-1 in 2010. Can the Bobcats turn to this smiling Buddha from Reno and seek knowledge that only the enlightened (and visible) can extend? Perhaps. But first they’d better find that missing defense and hope Marcus Curry is finally healthy enough to carry the ball as expertly as he did against Houston. Nevada is as good of a team as it is a role model. Play ball.

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Texas State Bobcats, Nevada Wolf Pack, Skip Holtz, Tyler Arndt, Shaun Rutherford

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