After watching the film from Texas State’s (2-4, 0-2 SBC) 40-34 loss to Louisiana Monroe, head coach Everett Withers said one thing became crystal clear: “We have a young football team.”
Withers cited one play in last week’s game that is seemingly a microcosm of how the game and this season has gone for the Bobcats.
After Tyler Jones cut the ULM lead to six with a 16-yard touchdown run, a Bobcat defensive stand forced ULM to punt the ball back with 1:18 on the clock. On the ensuing punt, however, Texas State was flagged for a block in the back after the punt return was supposed to go to the hash and instead wound up in the middle of the field.
The infraction pushed the Bobcats to their own 16, making the comeback attempt even more difficult.
Texas State moved the ball to the ULM 33-yard line, but Jones’ Hail Mary attempt to the end zone as time expired fell incomplete, ending the game.
“There are a lot of little things, but that one play had two instances in it where guys don’t do what they’re coached,” Withers said. “The moment sometimes get too big for guys. When you have to get out there and do it sometimes it doesn’t get done.”
Translating the game plan in meetings and practices to the playing field is where improvement is needed, Withers explained.
“We’ve got to lock in,” he said. “We are making some strides. We try to gauge this (team) as a season with steady growth as a program. Wins and losses are important, but for now they’re not the most important thing for this program right now. The most important thing is trying to get better.”
Now Texas State hosts the historic Sun Belt powerhouse, Louisiana Lafayette (2-4, 1-2 SBC) on homecoming weekend. The Ragin’ Cajuns looks to snap a three-game losing skid as it faces the Bobcats (2-4, 0-2 SBC) for the fourth time in school history. ULL claimed a 34-10 victory in the previous meeting in San Marcos and earned a 49-27 win in last year’s game.
The Ragin’ Cajuns come off a 24-0 shutout loss against Appalachian State. But continuing the trend in the SBC this year, throw out the records for this matchup.
“We’re going to play a team this week much like the last two teams we’ve played,” Withers said. “Their record doesn’t indicate how talented they are. They lost to a very talented Appalachian State team. This program has been one of the premier programs in the Sun Belt. They’ve had four years where they’ve done really well in the conference.”
Withers said ULL boasts “good size” up front on the offensive line, even though they’re struggling in the passing game.
One area the Ragin’ Cajuns do well is run the ball with leading rusher Elijah McGuire (579 yards on 100 carries). The senior running back is a threat as a receiver as well as the team’s fifth-leading receiver (98 yards and one touchdown).
“You have to know where he is all the time,” Withers said of McGuire. “He’s their number one weapon. That’s the only thing you can do when you have a threat like that.”
The growth Withers needs to see on Saturday to deem the game a success include improved offensive line play and run defense. This is the recipe Withers is looking to come together for the Bobcats to earn their first SBC win of the year.
“We don’t have any chance if we can’t stop the run,” Withers said. “We have to fit the run a lot better at all of our front seven positions for us to have a chance to win the ball game. Our program is about fighting your way out of adversity. We’ve got to grow up and learn how to win. One thing we have to do better as coaches is we teach our guys how to win.
“My whole mission in year one is to grow the program, create a culture, teach guys how to compete, how to play in our system and get better with a bunch of young guys.”
Damani Alexcee, said the emphasis this we was to make sure every practice is ran at 100 percent and that there are no setbacks.
The senior safety from League City has never defeated the Ragin’ Cajuns in his four years at Texas State. He feels like this is the year the Bobcats can win.
“I really feel like we have a chance to (beat ULL) this year,” Alexcee said. “I feel like if we practice the way we need to practice and do the things we need to do this week as a defense and as an offense, then we can definitely (win). This team has a chip on its shoulder especially after the loss we took this past week. We understand exactly where we are and what we have to do moving forward.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:06 p.m., and can be viewed on ESPN3/WatchESPN and heard on 1300 AM in Austin, 89.9 FM in San Marcos and 930 AM in San Antonio.