The BYU Cougars continue their run of games against Lone Star State teams this weekend as they welcome the Texas State Bobcats into LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 24. The Bobcats are only 1-5 so far this season but have lost three games by seven points or less — including a 51-48 double overtime loss to UTSA and a 24-21 loss at Boston College.
Texas State is located in San Marcos, Texas, which is halfway between Austin and San Antonio. The Bobcats have been around since 1904, although most of that time has been spent as a Division II and Division I-FCS program. They won the Division II national championship in 1981 and 1982 and have an overall record of 512-465-26.
The Bobcats joined the Sun Belt Conference and joined the FBS ranks in 2013. Since then, they have been bowl eligible twice, in 2013 and 2014, but have never been selected for a bowl game.
Jake Spavital is in his second year at the helm and has a 4-14 record as head coach of the Bobcats. Spavital was an offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at West Virginia before getting his first experience as a head coach with Texas State.
Clint Shields, the play-by-play voice of the Bobcats, said the Texas State fanbase is still optimistic about Spavital going forward, thanks in part to his resumé and experience with Power 5 programs.
“I think it starts with his background, with his pedigree,” Shields said. “He’s been an assistant coach with some highly regarded coaches along the way. So far, in the wins and losses, it’s been a repeat story [of last year], but a play here and a play there can make the difference in a ball game.”
— Texas State Football (@TXSTATEFOOTBALL) October 23, 2020
Texas State had a lot of questions at quarterback heading into 2020, as junior quarterback Tyler Vitt threw 14 interceptions and only 11 touchdowns last season. Sophomore Brady McBride has seen the majority of playing time this season but is averaging only 5.9 yards per attempt to go along with his six touchdowns and two interceptions. McBride is expected to start this week against BYU — he missed time earlier in the season after being forced to sit out due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Bobcats have evenly split carries between sophomore running back Brock Sturges and freshman Calvin Hill. Hill leads the team in rushing yards with 333, but at 5’7” and 167 pounds his touches will likely be limited to early downs and long yardage situations with Sturges coming in on short-yardage and obvious running downs.
In terms of play calling, the Bobcats have been balanced so far this season with an almost even split of run to pass plays. At wide receiver, senior Jeremiah Haydel, sophomore Jah’Marae Sheread and junior Marcell Barbee have seen the majority of targets — and each is averaging 12 yards per reception. Haydel has been limited in the Bobcats’ last three games, though, with only seven total receptions and no touchdowns since Sept. 19.
The Bobcats have averaged 28 points per game this season despite having a third down conversion rate of only 35%. They have counted on being a consistent, balanced offense, but have struggled when their preferred game script is disrupted, as they have been unable to complete big plays downfield on a regular basis.
Texas State returned only five starters on their defense from last season and brought in several transfer players to fill out their starting lineup. The Bobcats boasted a top 25 pass defense last season but are giving up 448 total yards per game in 2020.
According to Football Outsiders, the Bobcats rank 107th in the nation in defensive efficiency — UTSA is the only BYU opponent who ranks below Texas State. Shields said he doesn’t believe there is a huge difference in terms of talent between Texas State and UTSA.
Junior defensive end Nico Ezidore is one of the five returning starters from last year and has been the Bobcats’ most productive player so far. He leads the team in most defensive categories, with 35 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
Sophomore cornerback/safety DeJordan Mask leads the secondary with 30 total tackles and four pass breakups.
The Bobcats’ defense allows 31.7 points per game and are among the top 35 teams when it comes to penalties. They are also a top 30 team in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score 81% of the time.
Let's do this!! pic.twitter.com/lNTeLbfuSv
— BYU FOOTBALL (@BYUfootball) October 24, 2020
BYU is a heavy favorite over the Bobcats and should continue to be able to move the ball at will. Texas State will be playing their fifth straight road game and will have to overcome not just the Cougars, but the fans who will be allowed into LaVell Edwards Stadium for the first time this season.
Spavital is likely to have his squad hyped up for a chance to knock off a top 15 opponent on the road, but the Bobcats face an overwhelming talent gap that will prove almost impossible to overcome.
BYU vs. Texas State
Date: Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020
Time: 8:15 p.m. MT
Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 53 degrees
Where to Watch: ESPN, WatchESPN
Where to Listen: KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM
Spread: BYU -28.5
Written by Bridger Beal-Cvetko
Bridger is a student at Utah Valley University where he studies journalism and mass communication. He is the sports editor of the on-campus newspaper, The Review. Bridger is a life-long Cougar fan and college football enthusiast.