Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione is used to turning programs around. But his reversal of fortunes usually took one-to-three seasons at New Mexico, Alabama and TCU.
But in 2015, Franchione is trying to do his trademark turnaround in one season.
This offseason, the thought was that this was the year the Bobcats would go bowling. The last two years, Texas State was bowl eligible, but no bright-suited gentlemen gave Franchione a phone call with a bowl invite on the other end.
But with losses to currently ranked teams like Florida State and Houston, Texas State started the season with a 1-4 record, with only a win over FCS opponent Prairie View A&M. Part of the reason for the slow start was the Bobcats’ defense, which gave up over 500 yards of offense and 49 or more points in all four losses.
The poor start led to the resignation of defensive coordinator John Thompson, who walked away after seeing his defense allowing 49.5 points and 337 passing yards per game.
Finally, the Texas State defense put up a strong effort on Saturday, as it held South Alabama to 18 points and 468 yards of total offense (which is still an inflated number, but at least it’s under 500) in a big 36-18 win that could start the Bobcats’ climb back to .500 and the six-win mark that will put them in bowl eligibility status again.
Playing in a driving rainstorm that caused flooding around all of central Texas, the Bobcat defense got help from Mother Nature to stop the USA passing game. The windy and wet conditions prevented USA quarterback Cody Clements from a big night, throwing for only 189 yards.
On offense, running back Robert Lowe sloshed through the Bobcat Stadium turf for 248 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns. His 54-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter put the bow on a nicely well-played game by Texas State.
It’s just a win and the Bobcats are still 2-4, but there is still a path for Texas State to get to six wins. However, there are still some tough games ahead, like this coming Thursday at Georgia Southern.
The Eagles are one of the best running teams in the nation, averaging 399 yards per game before being held to 188 yards against Appalachian State last Tuesday. Georgia Southern should to return to form against Texas State, but if the Bobcats can match the Eagles’ offensive power, they could give their bowl resume a much-needed boost with a win.
After Thursday’s game, the schedule gets a bit easier for the Bobcats. Home games against three of the Sun Belt Conference’s bottom-feeders in New Mexico State, Georgia State and Louisiana-Monroe should put Texas State at 5-5 with two big road games left, at Idaho and at Arkansas State.
If Texas State can get both of those road wins, it would provide a five-game winning streak that would put it at 7-5 and an attractive resume for either the Camellia Bowl or the Cure Bowl in Orlando. And it would be one of the best turnarounds that Dennis Franchione has ever done.