CHEYENNE – Let’s take a quick look at Wyoming’s non-conference football schedule.
Who do they have coming back? Where are their strengths, weaknesses? What are the chances the Cowboys come out with a win?
There are plenty of questions surrounding the Wyoming football program in Craig Bohl’s sixth season. Let’s see if we can at least get an early look at what the Cowboys will face in their first four games of the 2019 campaign.
Texas State Bobcats, Sunbelt Conference, 3-9 overall in 2018
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Here are a pair of names you will probably hear through the speakers a time or 20 – Bryan London II and Nikolas Daniels.
There’s good reason, too.
These two Texas State linebackers were No. 1 and 2 in tackles, respectively, in the Sun Belt Conference a season ago. London is the top returning tackler in the nation (342), just ahead of Wyoming’s Logan Wilson (304).
Like Wilson, London is on the watch list for the Bednarik Trophy, which is given to the best defensive player in the nation. He racked up 109 tackles last season from his inside linebacker position and was named first-team All-Sun Belt. He recorded double-digit tackles in four games last season and recorded 5.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Daniels, a third-team selection in 2018, finished with 108 tackles last season. He tallied a team-high 16 tackles in a 12-7 loss to Troy.
Not only do the Bobcats have two of the best linebackers in the country, they are returning plenty of talent on that side of the ball.
We will get to that in a minute.
There’s also good reason that London and Daniels had to make so many tackles last season.
We will get to that now.
RETURNING OFFENSIVE STARTERS: (6)
One word you could use to describe Texas State’s offensive attack in 2018 is dreadful.
They were scary bad. Statistically, the worst in the Sun Belt Conference.
Want more proof?
That was that Troy defenders second interception in consecutive drives. Texas State threw four of those in the first half.
In the 10-team league, the Bobcats finished dead last in scoring (19.8), rushing (148.1) and total offense per game (330.3). Their passing offense was the lone bright spot, and even it finished eighth overall with just 182.2 yards per game.
To put that in even more perspective, Texas State’s 19.8 points per contest is five points behind the next worse offensively challenged team, Georgia State.
Want more perspective?
Wyoming’s 2018 offense averaged just 330.8 yards per game and had an even worse passing rate with 131.3 yards per outing.
Texas State returns six members of its inept offense, including its three-interior lineman, Jacob Rowland (LG), Aaron Brewer (C) and Reece Jordan (RG). Back-up guard Jalen Momerelle will also be in the fold.
The Bobcats will also have a pair of wide receivers back in the mix with Jeremiah Haydel and Mason Hays.
Their leading receiver from 2018, Hutch White, will also be back. He caught 34 passes for 298 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Tyler Vitt was the Texas State quarterback last season. His stat line reads like this: 1,159 yards passing, seven touchdowns, 10 interceptions.
The biggest boost to the Bobcats’ offense could come in the form of new head coach, Jake Spavital, offensive coordinator, Bob Stitt.
Spavital made a name for himself at the Power-5 level coaching at Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, California and most recently, West Virginia. He coached a guy named Johnny Manziel in College Station. He won the Heisman.
He coached another guy named Geno Smith. He also broke an NCAA record or two. Spavital also taught OSU quarterback, Brandon Weeden, a former minor league baseball player, the QB position. That guy was pretty good.
Stitt has a pretty decent resume, too.
He consulted OSU coach Mike Gundy last season. Before that he was the head coach at Montana for three seasons and the 14 previous years, he spent down the road as the head man at the Colorado School of Mines.
There, he gained his reputation for teaching current Houston coach, Dana Holgersen, the “fly sweep.”
So, will Texas State’s offense be better in 2019? One would have to think. Plus, can it get any worse?
RETURNING DEFENSIVE STARTERS: (10)
Defense, once again, will be the strength of this Texas State squad. Ten, yes, 10.
Obviously, London and Daniels lead the way once again, but they have plenty of back up. Outside linebacker, Frankie Griffin is also back after a 71-tackle performance in 2018.
Both defensive ends – Ishmael Davis and Caeveon Patton – return to the mix, and the Bobcats bring back their entire secondary, including senior safeties, JaShon Waddy and Anthony Taylor.
Texas State had plenty of success on defense in 2018, just not in the turnover department. The Bobcats picked off just five passes and 10 fumble recoveries.
Junior cornerback, Cordell Rodgers, led the Bobcats with two interceptions last season. Davis is the returning leader in sacks with 3.5.
New defensive coordinator Zac Spavital said this team will switch between a 3-4 and a 4-3 defense this season, depending on the situation. I’m guessing Sean Chambers and the Pokes will see both.
Depth will be the Bobcats biggest asset this season. Not only are they returning 10 starters, Texas State has 13 of the team’s 19 seniors on that side of the ball, including seven linebackers and two more defensive ends.
Last season, Texas State was 53rd in the nation in total defense. That is a huge number considering how often they were on the field.
HOW 2018 WENT:
When you look at how the offense stumbled through 2018 and the gaudy defensive stats that were put up – not to mention an entirely new coaching staff – you could imagine Texas State’s record wasn’t anything to write home about.
And you would be right.
The Bobcats went 3-9 last season, winning just one conference game, a 40-31 road victory over Georgia State. TSU knocked off Texas Southern and New Mexico State, too. But, a five-game and a three-game losing streak derailed any hope of making something of 2018.
When you take a quick glimpse at the 2018 schedule, one thing becomes apparent quickly – the Bobcats were in nearly every game aside from a few lopsided losses to Rutgers (35-7), Appalachian State (38-7) and Arkansas State (33-7).
HISTORY WITH TEXAS STATE:
These two squads have a bit of a history. Recent history, but still a history.
Wyoming has won two of the three meetings between the schools, dating back to 2011. The Cowboys rolled in both of their wins – a pair of 45-10 victories – at War Memorial Stadium.
The lone loss came in 2013. And, boy, was it memorable.
With 8:34 remaining in the second quarter, rain and lightning began to crash down in and around San Marcos. And for more than three hours, it didn’t stop. Both teams were ushered back to their respective locker rooms and fans were forced to leave the stadium.
Though the game resumed, minus the band or the TSU student section, you might say the Cowboys remained in the locker room.
Texas State ran away from the hapless Pokes in the second half, winning 42-21.
Texas State will feature not only one of the best defenses in its conference, but the nation. London and Daniels are legit, and so is the depth behind them at nearly every position.
Chambers and Co. will have their work cut out for them in steamy San Marcos in front of a home-opening crowd for the Bobcats.
The defense will be so good because they won’t be on the field as much. Or so you would think. The Bobcats are a huge question mark on offense, but with the talent on the coaching staff, you can bet they will be improved.
Having four veteran offensive linemen will only help a young quarterback and struggling rushing attack.
The Bobcats will get an early test when they travel east to Texas A&M to open the season. The goal in that one, I’d imagine, is to stay healthy. After Wyoming, the Bobcats travel north to Dallas to take on SMU. After that, the schedule is manageable until back-to-back meetings with Troy and Appalachian State in late November. They also head to conference-favorite Arkansas State Oct. 26.
Texas State is predicted by many to win four to six games.
GAME DAY INFO:
WHO: Wyoming at Texas State
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019
TIME: 5:00 p.m. MST
WHERE: Bobcat Stadium, San Marcos, Texas (capacity: 30,000)
TV: ESPN-Plus (Online streaming)
ROSTERS: Wyoming I Texas State
BETTING LINES: TBD