SAN MARCOS – Game week is finally here.
The 2020 college football season officially kicks off this weekend, and Texas State is eager to start their second season under head coach Jake Spavital. After posting their second-straight 3-9 overall record in 2019, the team knows there’s plenty of room for improvement on both sides of the ball. The primary concern is shoring up a defense that allowed nearly 220 rushing yards per game last season without standout linebacker Bryan London II, who graduated and is currently battling for a spot on the Los Angeles Rams roster. But before the Bobcats take the field on Saturday afternoon, there’s still one more hurdle to jump.
“We’ve still got one more COVID test to go,” Spavital said. “Once all of the tests come through, the anxiety will start to settle in, and I think on Friday it will sink in that we’re about to play on Saturday.”
This was the first time Spavital was made available to the media in person this summer, and he even admitted that it doesn’t feel like game week with the coronavirus pandemic looming in the distance. Texas State athletes and coaches have shouldered the burden of uncertainty for months now. Professional and collegiate sports leagues continue to waffle on whether their teams will play, and what new rules they need to follow in order to protect the health and safety of everyone involved For their part, Texas State has taken the eternally shifting regulations and guidelines in stride.
“With all of the testing that we’ve done, it was taking 2.5 hours to do all 250 of us. Then we tested on Monday, and they ended up knocking that out in about an hour and 15 minutes, so they’re getting more efficient,” Spavital explained. “The kids have been testing extremely well. It’s a good feeling so far that these kids are doing everything right, following all of the safety protocols and precautions. I think these kids have bought into what we’re doing emotionally, mentally and psychologically. All of the ups and downs that we’ve gone through over the past couple months... I think it’s here now. We can actually settle in and go do what we all love to do.”
WHO STARTS AT QB?
Tyler Vitt will not be QB1 for Texas State’s season-opener this weekend. Instead, sophomore Brady McBride will get the nod. The Coppell, Texas native transferred to the Bobcats from Memphis, but missed all of the 2019 campaign due to the NCAA’s transfer bylaws.
“Brady has had an exceptional fall camp,” Spavital said. “He came in and has been pretty driven. He’s a coach’s kid, too, so a lot of this stuff is pretty familiar to him. He has a unique skillset in terms of being able to extend plays. It’s going to be an exciting brand of ball with him. I’m going to have to be smart with the play calls just to understand where he’s at. He’s naturally going to try to make plays with his feet. But I’m excited for the kid. He’s put a lot of work into it, and he’s ready to get out there and play.”
Vitt, a MacArthur High School alumnus, had started for the Bobcats in each of the past two seasons and racked up over 2,700 total passing yards and 22 touchdowns in 18 appearances. Spavital praised the junior, and clarified that the decision was not an easy one.
“It was a fun quarterback battle to watch. I have all of the respect for Tyler Vitt, and he’s deserving of being a starter as well, but it really just came down to touchdown drives in live scrimmage situations. That’s what separated Brady, but I feel confident with both of those kids going into the game right now.”
On Saturday, @TXSTATEFOOTBALL is scheduled to open their season with a nationally-televised game against SMU, but there's plenty of uncertainty left - head coach @JakeSpavital is making sure the Bobcats are prepared for anything. More tonight at 6 on #KSATsports! @InstantReplaySA pic.twitter.com/PCxU55wPuZ— Andrew Cely (@ACelySports) September 1, 2020
Texas State’s game against SMU will be the first college football game played on Texas soil this season, and as a result, it will be broadcast to a national television audience on ESPN. That national spotlight has added another layer of hype as the team prepares for game day.
“The opportunity is tremendous,” Spavital said. “Typically, this wouldn’t be a national-TV game. I told the guys a long time ago that there would be an opportunity for a national TV game if we do the right things, and we’re pretty much a new team right now. Half of our roster is new. A lot of our coaching staff is new. I think everybody is ready to get this thing kicked off.”
SMU is no slouch. The Mustangs posted the program’s first 10-win season since 1984 last year, which included a dominant 47-17 victory over the Bobcats in Dallas on Sept. 14. Spavital understands the kind of challenge SMU presents.
“I think they’re really good. They won 10 games last year and they return the majority of their team. The offense all stems from Shane Buechele. I’m a big fan of that kid. He understands how to attack defenses and knows how to get the ball out of his hand. They return their entire offensive line, and they were a top 10 offense last year. These guys are going to be pretty solid across the board, so it’s going to be a tough challenge for us.”
Kick off at Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.