Last year, Texas State’s Maroon-Gold Spring Game ended on a successful Hail Mary catch that made SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of the night (No. 3).
This year, the Bobcats weren’t prepared for the nation’s top plays. They weren’t even ready for a game.
“Practice No. 12” as new head football coach Everett Withers called it during his media session postgame, yielded a 71-70 victory for Maroon (which played offense) in a uniquely bizarre “Spring Game” that featured an altered scoring model and situational football, rather than the standard kick, drive, score, repeat format of a traditional game.
“I guess they call it a spring game, I really don’t call it a spring game,” Withers said. “It’s another practice. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to coach and build both of our lines. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Depth at offensive line was a factor in the format this year, as only 11 offensive lineman (not including tight ends) are with the team during spring practices. A handful are coming in the fall with the new freshman class.
The lack of depth at offensive line yielded a ton of would-be big plays by defenders, who couldn’t sack the quarterback — only threaten to — which is typical in a Spring Game setting. The sack numbers tumbled past 10 as time and time again the Gold defense pressured quarterbacks Tyler Jones, former Cibolo Steele Knight L.J. Williams and Connor White.
Defensive end Terrence Anderson, linebacker Teron Fitzgerald and safety Frankie Griffin all had multiple sacks on the afternoon.
Griffin drew praise from Withers and Defensive Coordinator Randall McCray. Griffin, a redshirt sophomore from Spring, Texas, was all over the field making tackles and wreaking havoc.
“Frankie Griffin is a football player,” Withers said. “He’s not a smart football player right now but he is a good football player. He doesn’t know where he’s going or how to get lined up but he goes. We say, ‘go A to B, 4 to 6, fanatical effort.’ He does that. If you do that, we can teach you the other stuff.
“Tyler Jones is a football player. Dallas McClarty is a football player. We’ve got a handful. We don’t have enough, but we’ve got a handful.”
Tyler Jones, the Bobcats’ starting quarterback the last two seasons, got off to a slow start Saturday but eventually threw three touchdown passes to four different players: a 40-yarder to receiver Elijah King and a pair of 20-yard strikes to tight end Inoke Langi and receiver Demun Mercer. Jones also ran one in for a score.
L.G. Williams played sparingly, completing 2-of-6 passes and rushing for 25 yards on four carries.
Running back Nick Bingham was dynamic when given the opportunity — 10 carries, 63 yards — but his day ended sour, suffering an injury following a pretty punishing hit over the middle.
A couple of receivers had some crucial drops. Langi dropped a wide open fourth down conversion in between the hash marks. Mercer had an opportunity for a big play down the field early and couldn’t come down with the grab.
There’s still plenty to shake out with the Bobcats, who are behind the eight-ball with a schedule that features three bowl teams from last season in the first three games. Practice No. 12 was just another step in preparation.
“There’s no excuses,” Withers said. “We don’t get a whole lot of excuses anymore because nobody’s going to listen to them. I don’t know what went on before. Our objective is getting them to compete every snap. If you don’t compete, somebody’s going to be asking you why.
“I think we’re getting better. Are we a good football team? We’re not even close.”