Game 4 Preview: Texas State
The Georgia State Panthers (2-1) will look to rebound from a painful first loss of the year last Saturday against Western Michigan, as they go on the road to open Sun Belt against the Texas State Bobcats (0-3). The 2018 meeting between these two teams ended in a 40-31 Texas State victory.
The biggest takeaway from the Panthers’ heavy 57-10 defeat in Kalamazoo were the big plays the defense allowed and how easy WMU made it look to move the ball. GSU is going to have to seriously clean it up on the defensive end and make sure there isn’t a repeat performance this Saturday if they want to start conference play 1-0. Texas State is a pass-first offense under first-year head coach Jake Spavital and his offensive coordinator Bob Stitt, formerly of Montana and the Colorado School of Mines. Spavital had handed the keys of the offense to Montana transfer QB Gresch Jensen after the Bobcats’ opening loss to Texas A&M – but after Jensen has thrown 5 interceptions through 3 games, 2018 part-time starter Tyler Vitt might get the opportunity to win his job back.
Whoever gets the snaps, as mentioned, the pass game will feature heavily. Texas State are averaging 276 passing yards a game – good for 2nd in the Sun Belt – although the passing success has failed to manifest itself on the scoreboard to date, averaging only 12 points per game. While the caliber of opponent plays a factor in this (Texas A&M, Wyoming and SMU are a combined 8-1 so far), the Bobcats haven’t been able to run the ball effectively and have allowed Sun Belt-worst 13 sacks, leading to many 2nd and 3rd-and-longs. If the Georgia State front seven can tap into the pressure they were generating the first two games of 2019 (7 sacks) and take advantage of a scuffling Bobcat offensive line, they should be able to keep the Bobcats off-schedule and maybe force a mistake from the turnover-prone Jensen.
On offense, the Panthers will want to get things back on track after a down week against Western Michigan. The GSU offense still ran the ball well last Saturday (210 yards rushing) but they couldn’t get out of their way, with inopportune penalties, QB sacks and turnovers abound. Saturday is an opportunity for the Panthers to clean up those aspects of their game and look more like the offense that averaged over 40 points in their first two game. While the 37 points per game the Texas State defense are currently averaging sounds appealing, their defense is better than that, anchored by the play of linebacker Bryan London II. It will be a test for the Panthers, especially up the middle, but if they can use the speed of their running back corps to the outside and stretch the Bobcat defense, they can open up the middle of the field and keep the defense guessing.
The high off the Panthers’ win in Knoxville is wearing off – more and more rapidly after a 47-point loss last weekend – but getting to 3-1 and 1-0 in conference would be a big positive for fans and team alike. On the other hand, falling to 2-2 and 0-1 in conference would be a big gut punch after the promise of a 2-0 start. This is a crossroads game for the Panthers. How this game goes may well shape the rest of the season, and even in spite of the issues the Bobcats can cause the Panthers, this is a game Georgia State is going to need to handle to achieve the bigger goals they have for 2019.