UTSA Looms as Texas State’s New Rival

Hide the orange paint immediately and warn the horses

UTSA Looms as Texas State’s New Rival

Back in the day, the boys from Texas Lutheran College would load ice chests with longnecks, cram into pickups, and shoot down Highway 123 to San Marcos. In the silence of an inky early morning the paint buckets would come out in the quad of the school then still known as Southwest Texas State.

The drunken Bulldog fans stood before a statue of bucking horses – the story was if a freshman ever graduated from SWT still a virgin, the horses would take off across campus in a snit.

With laughter and abandon the boys from TLC – a mix of big-city kids from Houston and yokels taking baby steps away from their miniscule hometowns – slathered black and gold paint on the main horse’s genitalia. Later the Bulldog fans drank pitchers and ate nachos at the Varsity Inn in bustling downtown Seguin and imagined the faces of SWT students who would awake to the results of the yearly prank and plot revenge.

That’s what an old-school football rivalry looks like. Texas Lutheran now plays Division III football while Texas State has 35,000 students and is getting its sea legs on the cruise ship that is FBS (Big-Time Fooball!) in a Western Athletic Conference that is weeks away from being a footnote in football history as it drops the sport completely. Next year the Bobcats will play in the Sun Belt Conference as it searches for a new rival.

One possibility is UTSA, a school that popped up in the Seventies in what resembled a shopping mall and fielded a football squad for the first time last year. This Saturday the Roadrunners host the Bobcats. UTSA is already calling it the I-35 rivalry and has shirts printed up that say “Orange Out” – whatever that means. Roadrunner fans are also bragging about their team’s 7-4 record and feeling as sure of a victory as Romney supporters on Nov. 5. They hope to at least come close to bringing 50,000 fans into the Alamodome.

The problem is the two teams will be in different conferences next year – UTSA is headed to Conference USA and the Bobcat’s future conference foe the stoners of North Texas may have to step up instead as the team to beat.

For this one week, though, UTSA is the rival and, sorry Roadrunner fans, the Bobcats are likely to bitch-slap them. At 3-7, Texas State should be looking like a patsy at this point. But the Vegas odds-makers disagree, and so should you.

Last week I predicted a Bobcat win over Navy, and it wasn’t nearly as farfetched as the 21-10 loss indicates. Down 7-0 at the half, Texas State gave a seven-point early Christmas gift by fumbling the second-half kickoff for a 14-0 deficit and the offense seemed to deflate until the fourth quarter when Shaun Rutherford launched the ball to Isaiah Battle who raced 62 yards for a touchdown. The Bobcats, down 21-10, successfully made an onside kick but couldn’t capitalize. Despite racking up 405 yards of offense, the Bobcats found a way to stay out of the end zone.

But they were in the game the entire way, just like they were in a 62-55 loss to Louisiana Tech the week before. The Bobcat defense looked solid for once led by Joplo Bartu’s 16 tackles . Take away that fumble, a lot of penalties, and a very stupid fake field goal call that coach Dennis Franchione sheepishly took credit for, and this game was even.

Texas State vs. UTSA is a tale of scheduling. While the Roadrunners have won against powerhouses like 2-8 Southern Alabama, 1-10 Georgia State, 1-9 New Mexico State, 1-9 Idaho, and 4-7 Northwestern Oklahoma State (which lost 55-3 to something called Ouachita Baptist), the Bobcats have been slapped in the face by Texas Tech, Nevada, and a very tough New Mexico team. Both Texas State and UTSA lost to the WAC’s best: San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, and conference powerhouse Utah State, but the Bobcats were at least competitive with all but the latter.

The Bobcats have been tested. They’ve mostly come up short, but that’s beside the point. Franchione has rightly seen this year as a rebirthing process for a school that has been playing football since 1904. They’ve been tested and had moments of greatness (yes, the University of Houston sucks, but the Bobcats won!).

The Roadrunners have a solid quarterback in Eric Soza, who hung in there against Louisiana Tech. But Texas State’s Rutherford led a Bobcat charge that revealed La. Tech as a pretender to the WAC throne Utah State now owns.

Is there a rivalry brewing? You bet, if these two teams are smart enough to add it to their schedules. Hide the orange paint immediately and warn the horses.

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Shaun Rutherford, Texas State football, Isaiah Battle, Dennis Franchione

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