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« CSN West: Missed it by That Much, TwiceCSN So South: Big Wins and Close Losses Headline Opening Weekend »

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CSN Down South: The Rising Star of Texas State

floated rightBy Jason Plotkin, CSN Down South Columnist

In San Marcos, Texas State University runs a campaign calling themselves “the rising star of Texas.”

Last Saturday, this was the case, both on the field and off for the Bobcats’ athletic program and in particular, the football team.

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Before the game, it was a celebration of the future for the TXST athletic program as the school announced a $6 million donation from Jerry and Linda Fields. Both graduates of the former Southwest Texas State, the Fields family has lent a hand several times to the academic and athletic areas of the school.

Their generous donation was just the icing on a cake for the school, which opened a new west side complex that includes a “Legends Suite Level” and a “Champions Club Level” that has 15 suites and 450 club seats, respectively. These new amenities take Bobcat Stadium to an all-new level and easily puts the facility among the premier venues in the Football Championship Subdivision.

On the field, the “rising star” came in the form of a TXST program that had a meaningful victory against Angelo State. While the Division II Rams were expected fodder, this is a Bobcat team that has struggled against sub-Division I programs. Though a setback to Abilene Christian is the only notch in the loss column, TXST needed to make a statement in the season opener. The Bobcats had to prove to critics that new faces were ready to step up for an offense devoid of several playmakers from a year ago, while shaking off being known as slow starters.

Sometimes these new faces come from unexpected places.Meet Cedric Alexander.

A transfer from Division III Hardin-Simmons, Alexander accounted for two touchdowns in the first half, running a reverse from 10 yards out, before hauling in a 48-yard score from Bradley George. On the night, Alexander had 87 all-purpose yards, two yards behind the team-leader Alvaro Garcia.

Speaking of Garcia, the former reserve quarterback moved to wide receiver last season. Equaling his two receptions of a year ago, Garcia had 89 yards on the night including a 71-yard reception in the first quarter.

Lastly, there’s DeMarcus Griggs. Griggs, who sat out most of the 2007 campaign, had only nine receptions to his name before Saturday night’s five reception, 64-yard effort.

All three players, relatively obscure to those outside the program are potential “rising stars” for TXST.

THIS WEEK’S STORY LINES

CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR: Heading into the season, we all knew that Stephen F. Austin’s success or lack theirof would fall on the shoulders of Jeremy Moses. Against Southern Methodist, it was no surprise that a close game went in favor of the Mustangs as SFA could not recover from six turnovers, five of which came from interceptions thrown by Moses. This game was the Jacks to have until the fourth quarter. Entering the final 15 minutes with a 23-14 lead, the Mustangs closed out the scoring with 17 unanswered points with SFA’s Evan Engwall missing a 39-yard kick that would have given the Jacks a 26-24 lead with under three minutes to remain.

POKES STAGE RALLY, DEFEAT HENDERSON: It was not all fun and games in “The Hole,” but at the end of the day, McNeese found a way to win a 27-24 contest against Henderson State. Down 17-6 after 30 minutes and 24-14 after 45 minutes, it came down to the final 15 minutes for the Cowboys’ quarterback Derrick Fourroux. Facing a crucial fourth down and goal from the four-yard line, Forroux took the ball and ran in for a score with 1:25 left. It was almost for nothing as on the play prior, the Reddies’ Colton Clay nearly intercepted a pass that would have led the visitors from Arkansas to a stunning victory.

SAM FALLS TO FUMBLES: Despite several Blake Joseph fumbles, Sam Houston State had put itself in a position to tie or get the win against Western Illinois in the lone FCS vs FCS game on the SLC docket. A Joseph 20-yard pass to Jason Madkins looked like it might have put the Bearkats within one, but Madkins was ruled down at the one-yard line with 21 seconds left. An incomplete pass, a backward runningback toss that lost a yard and one more incomplete pass attempt kept the Bearkats from scoring, despite being just inches from the goal line after the pass to Madkins. Though the young defensive secondary struggled, the bunch led by defensive coordinator Scott Stoker did produce two touchdowns. Victor Carmichael recovered a fumble and took the ball 21 yards the other way, while preseason All-American Chris Brown intercepted for a 64-yard score.

SOUTHLAND STARS

First, kudos to SLC Commissioner Tom Burnett and his staff for ensuring that the SLC TV Network broadcast of SHSU and Western Illinois made its way into the Houston market. The game was originally blacked out due to a conflict with the Houston area affiliate. With the conference office making some phone calls, the game was moved to an alternate station.

Several of the mistakes that were realized during the infancy of the network have been avoided this year due to the diligent work of the conference office. Besides the guy at the top, SLC media relations contact Todd Lamb has been quick to respond to inquiries regarding the network, while also doing his part to promote the avenues in which league games can be watched by the fans of the schools. As football fans who thirst for information can attest, this helps a great deal.

Besides, the SLC office efforts - Fourroux was the star of the week. Though he threw for just 184 yards and ran for another 39, one play made all the difference as the quarterback for McNeese stepped up when his team needed it most. Facing a fourth and goal from the four-yard line and the game on the line, Fourroux answered the call of McNeese head coach Matt Viator and scored, staving off what could have been an embarrassing loss for both the Pokes and the SLC.

THIS WEEK’S SLATE

Two big games highlight the SLC calendar as McNeese State travels to Southern Conference foe Appalachian State and Northwestern State makes the short trek to Grambling. While both nonconference foes are coming off losses, ASU looks to return Payton Award winner Armanti Edwards from injury while the G-Men are coming off of a nationally televised loss to a strong South Carolina State squad at a neutral site in Orlando. Both games should test the SLC teams, who could pick up huge triumphs for the league.

Two other games feature FCS vs FCS matchups as SHSU hosts North Dakota State in the return game of the 2007 thriller in the FargoDome and Nicholls State plays a rare SLC contest against a team from the NEC as Duquesne comes to Guidry Stadium. Rounding out the slate are Union College at Southeastern Louisiana and Texas College at Stephen F. Austin.

* * *

Lagniappe – A Bit Extra To Write Home About

* Sam Houston State athletic director Bobby Williams recently published his “View from the Corner Office” in which he explains that SHSU is attempting to reschedule its home-and-home with Prairie View A&M, but it will pursue the buyout if the Panthers can not follow through on the agreement. Besides PV, the school is attempting to settle a basketball buyout issue with another SWAC member, Texas Southern. Williams, a former member of the Division I Playoff Committee addressed future scheduling, saying that with playoff expansion occurring, the goal is to play 10 FCS games besides one FBS game.

* Georgia State recently announced its schedule and Lamar was not on the slate. The Cardinals, who previously announced that they would make a trip to the Alamodome, had failed to properly handle the contract with the Georgia school, putting the Panthers in a situation in which they did not announce LU as part of their 2010. One could argue that LU jumped the gun in announcing its schedule because not all contracts were properly ironed out.

* My apologies to Northwestern State on its omission from last week’s column. The Demons should not have been overlooked on my part, especially because they were playing a team from my hometown of Houston, Texas. Here’s hoping the Demons wave the SLC flag proudly after a triumph over Grambling this week.