Four takeaways from Texas State’s loss in I-35 Showdown
SAN ANTONIO — Texas State lost to UTSA for the third straight year on Saturday night, falling 25-23 at the Alamodome.
Though the Bobcats suffered numerous setbacks, the team was able to hang with the Roadrunners and nearly completed a comeback win.
Here are four takeaways from the I-35 Showdown:
Texas State plays the quarterback shuffle
Through the first three games of the season, sophomore starting quarterback Willie Jones III’s throws had gotten progressively sharper. He entered Saturday’s game holding a 115.8 passer rating and was looking to take another step in his development against the Roadrunners.
Things didn’t quite shake out that way. Jones fumbled on third down during the opening drive of the game, which UTSA returned for a touchdown. On the first play of the next series, Jones scrambled to the right and was knocked out of bounds around the line of scrimmage.
As Jones ran back towards Texas State’s sideline, his left arm hung limp. He waved for a substitution He collapsed midway across the field, clearly in pain, and was ruled out for the game shortly after.
The Bobcats first turned to redshirt freshman Jaylen Gipson, who completed his first pass for four yards to sophomore wide receiver Jeremiah Haydel. But after his next three throws were off the mark, Gipson was replaced with freshman Tyler Vitt.
Texas State found success with Vitt under center. In his first drive, he completed two throws for 26 yards and capped the series off with a quarterback sneak at the goal line for a touchdown after receiving a 26-yard pass from junior receiver Hutch White.
Vitt later returned the favor. Down nine points in the fourth quarter, Vitt found White 13 yards out for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 23-21 with 5:08 left on the clock. It was White’s second touchdown in as many games, a big accomplishment as he had just three in his sophomore season.
Vitt was tackled in the end zone for a safety that ended up sealing the game, but head coach Everett Withers said he was impressed by the freshman.
“I thought he got a little bit more comfortable in the game,” Withers said. “Obviously, he’s a young kid and this is all brand new to him. But every week, he just seems to get better and better. So, that’s a positive.”
Vitt finished the evening going 15-22 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions to go along with 12 carries for 11 yards and a rushing touchdown. Withers said Jones’ current status is unknown.
Keenen Brown, always open
The graduate senior tight end instantly became one of Vitt’s favorite weapons. The quarterback looked to Brown early and often, and the tight end made sure Vitt was rewarded for it.
Late in the third quarter on 3rd and 16, Vitt was forced to scramble to the right and looked for an open man down field. Brown locked eyes with him and Vitt threw a perfect dart to the endzone for a 21-yard score.
“Whatever you do, you have to build (the quarterback’s) confidence,” Brown said. “If they throw it your way, you have to make a play, no matter what.”
Brown finished the game with nine receptions for a season-high 124 yards and a touchdown.
Bobcats get nowhere on the ground
Texas State struggled at running the ball last week against South Alabama. Aside from Jones’ big 50-yard keeper, the Bobcats rarely found traction through the ground game.
The team continued to struggle against the Roadrunners. Texas State attacked through the air for most of the game, trailing the entire way after the first minute.
The team’s running backs saw just nine carries for 28 yards. The longest carry of the game came from sophomore running back Robert Brown Jr. for just 11 yards.
Vitt led the team in carries — mostly scrambles out of the pocket — with 12 for 11 yards.
Defense keeps Bobcats in the game
Bryan London II has led the Bobcats in tackles in each game this year, racking up 28 total through three games. On Saturday, he kept the streak alive.
The redshirt junior linebacker led the team to a strong defensive showing, posting nine tackles. Though the Roadrunners put up 25 points, only 16 were scored by the offense.
The Texas State defense subscribed to the bend-don’t-break philosophy, allowing just one offensive touchdown all night and holding UTSA to 272 total yards. Though the Roadrunners ran 23 more plays than the Bobcats, they only gained 24 more yards.
“(We) just settled in,” London said. “I felt like guys were probably playing a little bit on edge in the first half, just made some uncharacteristic mistakes. So, once we just started playing our brand of football, we were good.”
One of the defense’s stops in the fourth quarter led to a UTSA punt. Junior running back Anthony D. Taylor came up with a block, his first of the season and fifth of his career. The Bobcats recovered it on Roadrunners’ 14-yard line, setting up White’s touchdown five plays later.