After two devastating performances against Arkansas State and Louisiana Lafayette, the Texas State offense took it home and lit a fire under the team for a 30-28 Homecoming victory over Sun Belt foe South Alabama on Saturday.
Behind 373 yards passing and three touchdowns from sophomore quarterback Tyler Vitt, the Bobcats defeated the Jaguars for Homecoming to take their second conference win and continue their long-shot journey to bowl qualification.
A good day was an understatement for Vitt, who won his first game as starting quarterback while racking up a career-high in passing yards and tying his career-best with three touchdown passes.
Head coach Jake Spavital said he was pleased with Vitt’s work ethic and determination that revealed itself on Saturday.
“He’s a fighter,” Spavital said. “He’s a blue-collar kid that shows up and he doesn’t let much phase him.”
After stopping the Jaguars on their first drive, the Bobcat offense started off well and drove deep into South Alabama territory. Senior kicker Joshua Rowland put the first points on the board for the second game in a row, kicking in a 20-yard field goal after being stopped on a 3rd and 5.
The Jaguars responded with their first points of the game as South Alabama running back Carlos Davis scored from 3 yards out to take a 7-3 lead.
Undeterred by the touchdown, Texas State responded with another long drive into South Alabama territory. After being stopped on third down again, Rowland came back with his second field goal from 41 yards out to cut the lead 7-6. The goal was Rowland’s second 40+ yard field goal of the season.
Later in the second quarter, the Bobcats put together their longest scoring drive of the season, going 92 yards before being capped off by Vitt’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Javen Banks to retake the lead at 13-7.
The game continued to be a back-and-forth effort, with the Jaguars responding with a drive of their own to retake the lead at 14-13 before halftime.
The shootout carried through the third quarter, starting off with Vitt’s 38-yard touchdown pass to Trevis Graham Jr. to put the score at 20-14.
South Alabama didn’t back down though and responded to the Bobcat touchdown and scored again with a Trotter 8-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Wayne to retake the lead at 21-20.
The Bobcats didn’t back down, however, and scored again as Vitt found Graham for the second time with a 17-yard touchdown pass to take the lead at 27-21.
The Jaguars took advantage of the misfortune and brought the score back to their favor with a narrow 28-27 lead.
Following a DeJordan Mask 60-yard kickoff return, the Bobcats were back into scoring position. After failing to convert on 3rd & 1, Rowland recovered from a missed attempt and kicked his third field goal of the game at 31 yards to retake the lead at 30-28.
The Bobcat defense came up big for the team near the end of the game, stopping South Alabama on third down. In a risky move, the Jaguars went for on 4th down from their own 33-yard line, but the Bobcats tackled Minter for no gain and another drive from Texas State.
After failing to gain a first down to seal the game, the Bobcats were forced to punt. To the horror of Bobcat fans, the snap was fumbled and the Jaguars recovered the ball at the Texas State 40-yard line.
The Jaguars were able to drive the ball to Texas State’a 11-yard line before the Bobcats were able to stop them on third down. With 1:08 left in the game, South Alabama went for the 28-yard field goal and the win.
Lucky for Texas State fans but unlucky for the USA kicker, the attempt sailed wide and nailed in the coffin for South Alabama, bringing a Homecoming victory and another conference win to the Bobcats for their third victory of the season.
Vitt finally found his groove in his third start after Gresch Jensen’s benching due to concussion protocol, bringing in 373 passing yards and rushing 42 yards for his first-everwin as quarterback. Vitt’s connection with senior receiver Hutch White was also vital to play. Hutch came in clutch with a career-high 165 yards off 10 catches as well as a standout performance alongside Mask with 62 yards on kick returns to put in 234 all-purpose yards. White’s receiving yards were the highest for a Bobcat since joining the FBS in 2012, earning a nod from the conference as the Sun Belt Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday.
Spavital said the strong offensive performance was due to offensive coordinator Bob Stitt’s recieving emphasis.
“I thought we had a really good game plan,” Spavital said, “Coach Stitt put one together that kept it together and utilized our receivers…in times where the defense wasn’t playing as stone-cold as they usually do, the offense stepped up and responded and won the game for us.”
Next up for the Bobcats is more of a challenge: the team will play their final home game against Troy this Saturday and must win the game to keep their bowl hopes alive.
The ‘Cats are projected at 32.8 percent odds against the Trojans, who sit at fourth in the East Division and match Texas State with a 2-3 conference record. The Bobcats will need to keep their strong offensive performance and bring back their 76th ranked defense if they are to defeat Troy. The Trojan offense is coming in hot off a 49-28 victory over Georgia Southern under quarterback Kaleb Barker, who matched Vitt with three touchdowns in last week’s game. Texas State’s Bryan London II sits at second in overall tackles with 89, but the Trojans host the Sun Belt’s top tackler, Carlton Martial, who tops the conference at 94 tackles.
The odds are against Texas State, but their breakout offensive performance, improvement from the offensive line and consistent defense has given new hope to fans and the team.
The Bobcats will wrap up their final home game of the season against Troy this Saturday at Bobcat Stadium.