In front of a nationally televised audience and a socially distanced crowd, Texas State nearly closed the gap against SMU. The Bobcats highlight-reel plays and competitive spirit refused to allow the Mustangs to distance themselves on the field and on the scoreboard.
The Bobcats ESPN debut may have ended in a 31-24 loss, however Texas State set the tone for a highly competitive 2020 season. Texas State opened as a -24 point underdog against an SMU team that won their first eight games last season. The Bobcats lined-up without ANY tight-ends after four players were quarantined due to contact tracing. The reality of trying to play a football game during a pandemic was evident from the masks, stadium protocols and the fact that the Texas States’ football equipment team got the Bobcats new uniforms delivered just HOURS before kick-off. Texas State entered the day questioned, doubted, and written off by “experts”. By the end of the game the Bobcats had earned the respect their fans, their opponents and the nation!
The Bobcats’ 80-yard opening drive might have been some of the most exciting offense Jim Wacker field has seen in years! While Texas State was unable to get on the scoreboard after a missed field-goal, big yardage plays from Arizona State transfer Brock Sturgis and Memphis transfer QB Brady McBride were the earliest signs that this was not going to be an easy win for the Mustangs.
After a scoreless 1st quarter, an outside 6-yard rush from Ulysses Bentley IV put SMU on the board first, however Texas State quickly answered. Maybe the biggest takeaway from the loss was the Bobcats’ refusal to stay down after getting knocked down. Recently named starter Brady McBride led a 10 play 71-yard drive that was nearly capped off with an insane touchdown snag over double coverage by Marcel Barbee. While he got his feet in-bounds it was ruled that Barbee lost control of the ball as he fell to the ground. Brock Sturgis would score the next play on a 6-yard outside handoff which tied the game at 7-7.
SMUs’ 1st half rushing attack was led by Ulysses Bentley IV who scored both of the Mustangs’ 1st half touchdowns; the first of his career. Bentley is clearly one of the better backs in Mustangs’ stable. He showed patience hiding behind blockers until choosing the right moment exhibit his speed and agility. With 3:47 left to go in the 2nd quarter, Bentley dashed out, then back inside the tackles for a 12-yard score.
SMU seemed poised to take a 14-7 lead into halftime, until another spectacular catch from the Bobcats’ receiver core. With just 14 seconds left in the half, Jermiah Haydel made what Sportscenter has already dubbed an early “catch of the year” nominee!
The Mustangs opened the 2nd half asking more from their quarterback, former University of Texas starter Shane Buechele. A few throws over the top stretched the Texas State defense which would expose some of the lingering issues the Bobcats’ need to address. Another rushing TD, this time from TJ McDaniel put the Mustangs ahead by seven. Still, Texas State remained competitive! After a much needed interception by Kordell Rodgers, Brady McBride led another touchdown drive to tie the game at 21.
Late in the 3rd quarter a clear fumble by Bentley IV was ruled down by contact. SMU rushed to the line to prevent a video review. The ensuing play was a a 51-yard bomb from Shane Buechele. Reggie Robinson Jr. made the over-the-shoulder catch and dove into the end zone just as he was brought down. While both calls were questionable, they both went un-reviewed, as SMU took a lead that they would hold on to win.
Texas State may have lost their home opener, but i can honestly say the buzz around Bobcat Stadium felt…different. Which may be not even be the operative word because truly EVERYTHING about this College Football season has been different. Socially distanced fans, new uniforms & a near upset in a nationally televised game on ESPN? Different might be an understatement… it also might be better!
Texas State will face I-35 Rival UTSA next Saturday on ESPN2.