When Everett Withers took over the Texas State football program as head coach in 2016 he was fully aware of the challenge ahead. Common sense suggests this was always going to be an uphill battle for at least two years.
Yes – the Bobcats are 1-3 on the season, but improvement in culture, toughness, will and tenacity is evident. The schedule has been fairly arduous as well with Withers’ squad facing post-season qualifying foes every game for the last calendar month.
“This will be opponent number four in a row that went to a bowl game (last season),” Withers said. “(Also) three of the last opponents either played for a conference championship or won the conference championship. The first five games have been a really challenging test for our football team. We have to learn how to respond to adversity a little bit better. When you’re a young team that’s one of the teaching points. I think our kids are doing well.”
Texas State enters Saturday’s contest versus the Wyoming Cowboys (2-2) at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie looking for its second win of 2017 after falling 44-14 against UTSA in the inaugural HEB I-35 Showdown last weekend at Bobcat Stadium. It’s the second road game of the season and closes out the Bobcats’ non-conference schedule.
Last week Wyoming earned a 28-21 victory in overtime against Hawaii after opening the season with a 24-3 loss at Iowa. Season results include a 27-0 win over Gardner-Webb and a 49-17 defeat against Oregon.
The Texas State football team returns to Laramie, Wyo. for the first time since 2011 when the Cowboys won the first meeting 45-10. The Bobcats returned the favor, winning 42-21 in San Marcos on Sept. 28, 2013, in a game that featured a three-hour lighting delay (this writer was in the press box for that one).
Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl is in his fourth season after joining the program following a highly-successful 11-year stint at North Dakota State, leading the Bison to three-consecutive NCAA Division I FCS national championships.
“You see tough, hard-nosed players that love football (at Wyoming),” Withers said. “That’s kind of their M.O. (Bohl) is doing the same things that he did at North Dakota State that he’s doing at Wyoming. Last year was year three and they played for the Mountain West Championship. I think he’s starting to get the culture where he wants it.”
The Cowboys defense ranks seventh in the country in forcing turnovers with five interceptions this season. If that’s not enough, the Wyoming is graced with one of the highest-rated NFL quarterback prospects in the nation in junior Josh Allen.
He was named the Mountain West Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year for 2017 and is on the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Walter Camp and Manning Award Watch Lists.
“You just look at guy on tape and you look at his demeanor – He obviously has the physical tools,” Withers said. “He can throw it from the left hash to the right numbers on a rope. It comes off his hand like it should for an NFL quarterback. His skill set fits the National Football League.”
Last week’s loss to UTSA was a costly one for Texas State. Receiver Mason Hays (fractured fibula) and defensive end Ishmael Davis (torn ACL) were both lost for the season.
The Bobcats will face additional obstacles Saturday. War Memorial Stadium is situated 7,215 feet above sea level, compared to 5,360 feet at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., which is good for the highest Division I FBS college football stadium in the nation.
“It’s going to be all hands on deck because we’re going to need guys to roll in the game,” Withers said. “This is much different than Colorado.”
Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. CST and can be heard on AM 1300 The Zone in Austin, 89.9 FM in San Marcos and KRDY (1160 AM) in San Antonio. The game will also be streamed live on the Texas State Athletics Facebook page.