Texas State (3-5, 1-3 Sun Belt Conference) was defeated for the first time at Bobcat Stadium this season by conference newcomer Southern Miss (4-3, 2-1 Sun Belt Conference) 20-14 on Saturday at its homecoming game.
The Bobcats entered the game looking to improve to 4-0 at home for the first time since 2005.
One of the biggest concerns head coach Jake Spavital had going into Saturday’s matchup with Southern Miss was its suffocating defense, as it has been the Golden Eagle's biggest strength so far this season.
That didn't change on Saturday.
The Golden Eagles' defense manhandled the Texas State offense for the vast majority of the game, holding the Bobcats to 243 yards of total offense, -6 yards rushing and 2-16 on critical downs. They also forced one takeaway and three sacks.
“We knew we had a tough opponent,” Spavital said. “We thought this was one of the more athletic defenses that we were going to face all year and we didn’t do a really good job at controlling the line of scrimmage. That’s what it came down to. Defensively, they dominated our offense in all phases.”
Texas State junior quarterback Layne Hatcher finished the game 25-42 for 254 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Hatcher's lone interception clinched the win for the Golden Eagles, as senior cornerback Natrone Brooks picked off Hatcher with six seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Even though the Bobcats gave up the late touchdown, their defense did all it could to give the team an opportunity to come out with a win. Texas State held Southern Miss to 318 yards of total offense, 7-19 on third down and forced three takeaways, none of which were converted into points by the offense.
Spavital said he and his team will use the upcoming bye week to regroup and get healthy for the final month of the regular season, starting with Louisiana-Monroe in two weeks.
“I felt so bad for the defense because they played phenomenal and they got down to a fourth and five and that happens on a scramble,” Spavital said. “This one hurts probably worse than anyone I’ve ever been a part of. You see it in the locker room because those kids fight and they left everything they got out there.”
The first points of the game came on the Golden Eagle's second offensive possession. Despite starting off at the Texas State 35-yard line due to a 23-yard punt from junior punter Seamus O’Kelly, Texas State’s defense managed to hold Southern Miss to a 33-yard field goal putting the score at 3-0 with 5:36 remaining in the first quarter.
The game’s next points came early in the second quarter on the fifth Southern Miss offensive possession. After Texas State was forced to punt out of its own endzone, the Golden Eagles began the drive at the Bobcat 37 yard-line.
The Golden Eagles took advantage of the great field position by going on a quick six-play drive that was capped off with a two-yard touchdown run up the middle by redshirt sophomore running back Janari Dean, increasing the Southern Miss lead to 10-0 with 6:32 left in the first half.
Texas State responded to the touchdown drive by going on one of its own on its next possession. The drive was ignited by a deep 45 pass down the right sideline from Hatcher to senior wide receiver Marcell Barbee on the second play of the drive.
Five plays later, Hatcher connected with senior wide receiver Javen Banks on a quick four-yard slant route in the endzone to give the Bobcats its nextpoints of the game to put the score at 10-7 with 3:52 left in the first half.
Southern Miss closed out the first half by going on a long 14-play drive that concluded with redshirt senior kicker Briggs Bourgeois kicking his second field goal of the game from 40 yards. This gave the Golden Eagles a 13-7 lead at halftime.
The game’s next points didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter on Texas State’s thirteenth offensive possession. Facing third down and ten at their own 26 yard-line, Hatcher found sophomore wide receiver Ashtyn Hawkins deep over the middle for an 74-yard touchdown reception that gave the Bobcats its first lead of the game at 14-13 with only 1:21 left on the clock.
The Texas State lead wouldn’t last long. Southern Miss went on a quick six-play game-winning touchdown drive that ended with freshman quarterback Zack Wilcke on fourth down, scrambling out of the pocket to avoid the Texas State pressure and hitting sophomore wide receiver Chandler Pittman. The 53-yard touchdown gave the Golden Eagles the 6-point lead with just 32 seconds left.
Texas State's next game against Louisiana-Monroe is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Malone Stadium in Monroe, Louisiana.