Texas State football (1-8 overall, 1-4 Sun Belt) will take on Georgia Southern University (5-2 overall, 3-2 Sun Belt) Nov. 14 in the Bobcats' last away game of the season.
Texas State fans have been on an emotional rollercoaster this year. Through nine games, the Bobcats have shown both progression and regression on both sides of the football. With the starting quarterback situation still up in the air and only one win, the Bobcats are now trying to finish out the season on a high note.
“It’s either we’re moving forward or moving backwards...” Head Coach Jake Spavital said. “We’ve got three weeks to put this together and keep working, and keep making sure we’re becoming smart football players.”
Spavital’s statement speaks volumes, as this team has seen constant inconsistency all over the field. Spavital opted to start junior quarterback Tyler Vitt over sophomore quarterback Brady McBride last week against Appalachian State University. While many Bobcat fans were in favor of the move, the results remained the same as App State went on to win 38-17.
Texas State’s offense going into Saturday afternoon's contest against the Eagles will have their work cut out for them. Georgia Southern is holding opponents to 19.1 points per game, which ranks 19th in the nation.
Regardless of who takes the bulk of the snaps under center on Saturday, the Bobcats will have to have a performance unlike what has been shown throughout the season. Vitt and McBride have both struggled to complete their passes and take care of the football; each hovers just under the 60% completion mark and has thrown at least four picks.
Spavital says mental mistakes, like throwing interceptions, are what have hurt the Bobcats most this season.
“To win football games you have to play winning football and that’s not beating yourself," Spavital said. "When you look at the stats and you look at the tape, we shoot ourselves in the foot. We need to be on that constant pursuit of making sure we’re correcting mistakes.”
Limiting turnovers and playing efficient football will be a significant factor as Georgia Southern‘s defense allows opposing quarterbacks to complete only 56.7% of its passes.
Not only is their pass coverage one of the best in the nation, but the Eagles force opposing offenses to throw an average of one interception per game. Freshman cornerback Derrick Canteen leads the team with two interceptions through seven games.
The Eagles pass defense is not only predicated on their defensive backs making plays. Led by senior defensive end Raymond Johnson III with four sacks, The GSU defensive line gets after opposing quarterbacks in a hurry. The Eagles as a whole average almost two sacks per game.
Georgia Southern’s defense is forcing at least one turnover per game and hold opposing offenses to less than 4 yards per carry. Texas State averages 4.4 yards per carry as a team; more specifically, the “three-headed-monster” of sophomore running back Jahmyl Jeter, sophomore running back Brock Sturges and freshman running back Calvin Hill all average five or more yards per carry. If the Bobcats have any hope of winning the game the running backs must produce.
On the flip side of the football, the Bobcats' defense will have to find a way to stop the high-powered and dynamic GSU rushing attack, which Spavital praised.
“You’re going to see some spread triple-option stuff, multiple formations, and things we have not seen yet," Spavital said. "They’re a ball-control team.. they’re a very efficient football team.”
The Eagles offensive philosophy is simple: Run the ball down opposing defenses throat and open up their play-action passing offense off of that. The Eagles run the ball an average of almost 34 times more per game than they pass.
GSU's run game opens up a plethora of various play-action schemes that boost their efficient passing offense. Senior quarterback Shai Werts does not have jaw-dropping passing statistics, but he has managed to hurt opposing defenses with his legs, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
In the passing game, Werts has only thrown for five touchdowns, but with the run game opening up the offense for him, he averages 105.43 passing yards per game.
GSU's senior running back J.D. King is questionable for Saturday’s game. King leads the Eagles in rushing yards at 625. Should he miss Saturday’s game, the Eagles have another back who has proven to be successful in senior running back Wesley Kennedy III. Kennedy averages over 6.8 yards per carry and has five touchdowns on the season.
If the Bobcats want to stay in the game and give the offense opportunities, stopping the run game will be key. Texas State will have to depend on players like junior defensive lineman Nico Ezidore, senior linebacker Christian Taylor and senior linebacker Hal Vinson to win their battles at the point of attack.
In order for the Eagles not to run wild on the Texas State defense, getting into the backfield early and disrupting their ground game will be key. The tackles for loss statistic will be a telling sign on Saturday afternoon; if Texas State is not blowing up that category, they are unlikely to win.
The Eagles have a 3-1 record against Texas State, with the teams' previous matchup finishing in a 15-13 loss for Texas State back in 2018. Georgia Southern has taken the final three contests by an average margin of victory of nine points.
Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m at the Allen E. Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.