Twenty-four hours following Texas State’s 48-17 win against Incarnate Word, in which senior quarterback Tyler Jones set school records with 475 yards passing and five touchdown (31 of 40 passing), head coach Everett Withers’ mindset is that his is team back to square one saying they are now 0-0.
In reality, the Bobcats own a 2-2 record after bookending victories (Ohio and UIW) around the back-to-back games against Top 25 nationally-ranked teams (Arkansas and Houston). But now it’s a new season with Sun Belt Conference play opening against the 0-4 Georgia State Panthers.
“Now we’re playing for something,” Withers said. “Those first four games obviously was more evaluation and who we had…Now we’ve got to start playing for something.”
Withers said winless Georgia State’s record is deceiving and they boast one of the best rushing defenses in the country. Much like the Bobcats, the Panthers have played against tough competition through the first four games, including against No. 9 Wisconsin in which Georgia State lost by less than a touchdown and extra point (23-17). The two losses were by a combined 20 points and both road games.
The Panthers had their four-game Sun Belt winning streak snapped by Appalachian State in a 17-3 loss last week.
“If you look at the last two ballgames they’ve given up two rushing touchdowns against two pretty good opponents in Wisconsin and (Appalachian State),” Withers said. “They’re playing really well on defense right now – probably as good as anyone in the conference.
“Offensively they are a little bit like us in a lot of ways, struggling to find the run game. The quarterback has been a little bit inconsistent but can be streaky and can get hot. They’ve got a talented group of receivers. We’re very similar in a lot of ways.”
Withers said it will be a big challenge to go on the road against a Georgia State team that crushed the Bobcats 41-19 last year in San Marcos. Perhaps the biggest threat Texas State will have to contend with is senior wide receiver Robert Davis, who is now the Panthers’ school career leader in receptions.
“We’ve got to do really good job of preparing for what we’ve seen on tape and then be able to react and adjust during the game,” he said. “There’s not a big drop from a Power Five school to a (Group of Five) school. That’s why you have to be prepared to go play each week. The Sun Belt is a very competitive conference.”
The Bobcats and Panthers have met three times prior to Saturday’s showdown at the Georgia Dome. Texas State holds the series record 2-1, with one of those wins in Atlanta.
Ownership is the word of the week around the facility and campus. Withers and his staff preached to his team leading up to the Sun Belt Conference opener against Georgia State that ownership is a way of life – a mindset one maintains for self-improvement.
It’s about how you prepare, compete, act and react. No matter if a player is on campus, out and about around the community or on that practice field.
“How do you own that?” Withers challenged his team. “That’s going to be really important for a team that’s kind of young. We’re a work in progress. Obviously we’re not there yet. It’s a matter of whether or not our players are willing to take the ownership in getting prepared to take that journey in the right direction.
“Taking ownership in your job description is what helps teams win and lose. That’s from the first snap to the last snap.”
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CST. It can been seen on ESPN 3 and heard on 1300 AM in Austin, 89.9 FM in San Marcos and 930 AM in San Antonio.