- By Keff Ciardello American-Statesman Correspondent
Penalties and turnovers eventually doomed Texas State in the Bobcats’ season-opening 35-7 loss to Big Ten cupcake Rutgers Saturday in New Jersey.
Texas State (0-1) committed 15 penalties for 119 yards and gave up the football three times.
Coach Everett Withers believed both of factors are outliers, referencing the Bobcats’ lack of penalties in recent years.
“We were in the top five the last two years for least amount of penalties in the country,” Withers said. “To have that in the first ball game, hopefully we got it out of our system.
“We had eight on offense — two of our best players had six of them on offense, (junior left tackle) Aaron Brewer and (junior right tackle) Jacob Rowland had six holding and false start penalties. You can’t have those. We had four on special teams, which you can’t have. Especially when you go on the road.
“I think a lot of it was first game jitters. Aaron Brewer is really talented player and to have four (penalties) — some of his holding penalties he was just trying to be really aggressive and he got his hands outside the framework and things didn’t go well. Jacob Rowland didn’t hear the snap count on time. When I look at the penalties, defensively, all of them were aggressive penalties, which I like. If you are going to make a penalty on defense, make it an aggressive penalty.”
The Bobcats played two quarterbacks against the Scarlet Knights, starting with sophomore Willie Jones III before replacing him with freshman Tyler Vitt in the fourth quarter.
Jones had two turnovers — an interception and a fumble in the first half. Vitt fumbled a snap in the end zone on his second play.
Withers said Monday at his weekly press conference that Jones is still the starter for Saturday’s home opener against Texas Southern (1-0).
“I learned that (Jones) has a lot of confidence in his ability,” Withers said. “I think he understands his mistakes. We’ve had three or four conversations since the game ended on Saturday. I think he understands where he has to go.”
Jones completed 6 of 19 pass attempts for 79 yards while rushing for a team-high 33 yards on 14 attempts. Vitt completed 3 of 5 pass attempts for 21 yards and three yards rushing on one carry.
One positive for the Bobcats were the four turnovers forced by the defense — three interceptions and a fumble.
Sophomore cornerback Kordell Rodgers had two interceptions, including one returned for a 51-yard score in the third quarter. It was the Bobcats’ only touchdown of the game.
“That’s what you dream about when you’re a little kid, getting a pick-six in a college football game. It was like a dream come true,” Rodgers said. “(Defensive coordinator Chris Woods) made a good call and all of us was in the right position. I just saw the ball and broke on it.”
Rodgers was a quarterback at Lufkin before converting to defensive back last year.