Young ‘Cats Making Strides

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Elijah King seemingly summed up Texas State’s season thus far when he spoke with the media this week. It’s been well established there are only 32 players on the Bobcats’ roster who had played in a Football Bowl Series game before the season-opening win at Ohio.

King was one of them.

“None of had caught a FBS catch before this year and none of us played in a FBS game,” the junior transfer from Santa Barbara Community College said about the young wide receiver corps. “It’s all new to us all.”

After a 41-21 loss to Georgia State last Saturday in Atlanta, the Bobcats now sit with a 2-3 overall record and moved to 0-1 in Sun Belt Conference play.

Withers noted the Bobcats’ early 14 point lead against the Panthers got them out to a nice start. However an interception and a punt return for a touchdown which was negated due to a penalty moved momentum back to the Georgia State side, which scored 34 unanswered points that put the game out of reach.

Mistakes were made. Lessons were learned. And as coach Everett Withers said in September, this team will not be graded on wins and losses. Effort and competitiveness is what matters to Withers.

“I thought we did some good things early in the ball game,” Withers said. “I don’t have a question that our guys competed hard in the ball game. That’s a positive – that’s kind of the number one thing that we look for.”

The first year Texas State coach said things happen as a young team and they have to learn how to overcome adversity on the field.

“We’ve got to continue to tie in the little details of doing things right that will give us positive plays where we can keep drives alive,” Withers said. “That’s kind of where we are as a team right now. You can coach things in practice but eventually the guys have to do it in the game. We’re not close to where we want to be, but we are taking baby steps every day.”

Turning the page to this Saturday, Texas State will play its third road game of the season and the second in row, this time the SBC foe is the University of Louisiana Monroe (1-4, 0-2 SBC).

Much like Georgia State, Withers said he is excited to play a team “a lot like us” in ULM. He likens the Warhawks’ program to that of Texas States’.

Withers and ULM head coach Matt Viator, who is also in his first year with his respective program, met at the SBC coaches meetings in May and had a chance to exchange pleasantries. But that’s not the first time the two have crossed paths.

When at North Carolina, Withers had an opportunity to coach against Viator when he was at McNeese State.

“(His teams) are always going to be well coached, always going to be tough and play with great effort,” Withers said. “He’s trying to teach the same things that we’re trying to teach here to a T.”

ULM comes off a narrow loss to Idaho (34-31) at home. The Vandals sealed the win with a game-winning 27-yard field goal as time expired.

In the loss, sophomore quarterback Garrett Smith, who hails from Smithson Valley HS, totaled 302 yards passing with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Warhawks’ lone win this season was the opener at home against Southern University 38-21.

“I think he’s got talent,” Withers said of Smith. “He’ll fit the ball into some tight windows. He’s a tough kid obviously because he’s taken some punishment, he’s taken some hits. He can hurt you with his legs. I’ve seen him make some big throws and have some big plays down the field in the passing game and then I’ve seen him throw the ball to the defenders some. He’s kind of the head of that offense. When he’s on he’s on.”

The matchup against the Warhawks is a very winnable game for the Bobcats as the two programs will meet for the 13th time on Saturday at JPS Field at Malone Stadium.

ULM currently hold a 4-2 mark in games played in Monroe against Texas State and overall it leads the series (8-4) however, Texas State has taken two of three in the series since the teams have met as Sun Belt foes.

Last year the Bobcats earned one of their three victories with a 16-3 win against ULM in San Marcos.

Tempo, focus, execution and togetherness. These traits is what will ultimately make this Texas State squad successful against ULM and throughout the rest of the season, according to King, who leads Texas State in yards per reception (15.33), his group is the pacesetter for the team.

“We play for one another,” the Kentucky native said. “So if someone is down there is somebody right there behind him to pick him up. Coach (Parker) Fleming talks about it all the time – our receiver group is going to have the energy for the offense, so we have to come with it each and every day, every game, every practice. We know what we’re doing out there so we got to go out there and continue to make plays.”

Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. CST and can be seen on ESPN3 and heard on 1300 AM in Austin, 89.9 FM in San Marcos and 930 AM in San Antonio.

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