Special Champions Edition
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Adam D. Brown/Star photo
Weekend of Champions
Inside: Volleyball brings home SLC title; Women’s basketball KO’s OK State in season opener
WEEKEND OF CHAMPIONS
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Adam D. Brown/Star photos WINNING PLAYS: Clockwise from left: Nick Session runs into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in overtime over Sam Houston State. Senior quarterback and Payton Award nominee Barrick Nealy evades a Bearkat defender on his way to 153 rushing yards through overtime. Wide receiver Justin Williams goes up for one of Nealy’s passes. The Bobcats hope to carry their three game win streak into the playoffs against the Georgia Southern Eagles Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in San Marcos.
By Miguel Peña Sports Editor
fter a bend-but-don’tbreak defense held the Sam Houston State Bearkats to an overtime-opening ﬁeld goal, Texas State’s all-everything quarterback Barrick Nealy knew the Bobcats’ next two plays were golden. “I was just thanking God,” Nealy said after his last-minute turnover in the fourth quarter assured the overtime. “After that last fumble, I was just praying and hoping that the offense would have another opportunity. When I handed (Nick) Session the ball, I just knew that he was in.” Texas State won its ﬁrst Southland Conference title championship since moving to Division I on a hand-off to the right side
that made the ﬁnal score 26-23 in an overtime thriller. Session’s run was preceded by the senior signal caller’s 20yard scramble to open the ’Cats overtime. Nealy dropped back to pass but, when unable to ﬁnd an open receiver, danced around the backﬁeld before committing to the sidelines and ﬁnally being forced out at the 5-yard line. “We had a ﬁrst down at the 5, and we knew what we had to do,” head coach David Bailiff said. “We just looked at what we had to do and got it done.” Bailiff ’s thoughts were correct in the huddle as well. “Before the play, I just stared into everybody’s eyes real hard, and everybody was ﬁred up,” Nealy said. The ﬁre still burned in spite of six Bobcat turnovers and 60 minutes of football. With the less-than-stellar performance from the then-ﬁfth-ranked team, Bailiff was well aware of whom to depend on. “We’ve been rolling the shoulders of these seniors all year, and we had a great crowd. I just had a really good feeling of what was going to happen,” the secondyear coach said. Much of the game’s action, including the up-and-down emotions of the 15,288 in attendance, came in the ﬁnal 12 minutes of regulation. With the score tied at 13, kick returner Justin Williams ﬁelded the Sam Houston kickoff at the 11-yard line and evaded tacklers to give the Bobcats excellent ﬁeld position just into Sam Houston territory and, more importantly, a chance to take a commanding lead. Running back Daniel Jolly
would serve as the drive’s key backﬁeld threat as two consecutive runs picked up 24 yards to place the Maroon and Gold at the 25-yard line. Another Jolly run, followed by a short Nealy run and an 11-yard pass to Williams, left Jolly with a 7-yard touchdown run to go up by seven points. With more than nine minutes remaining in a rivalry match, the game was still far from over. “I’m not going to say that I think that we had it wrapped up,” Jolly said. “Obviously, I was hoping that it was going to be the touchdown that would win it for us. I was hoping that was going to be a momentum swing for us. But Sam Houston, being the proud team that it is, fought back.” The Bearkats’ following drive was declawed quickly as Texas State’s conference-leading defense showed why they own the rankings they do. A 7-yard rush by ’Kats running back Jason Godfrey was nearly eliminated on the following play as defensive linemen Teddy Jones and Ramel Borner’s sack of Sam Houston’s quarterback Wade Pate took off 4 yards and led to a third-and-long incompletion to force a punt. Freshman ’Cat Morris Crosby, determined to complement the preceding kickoff by Williams, caught the ensuing punt at the 21-yard line and once again gave Texas State great ﬁeld position to start the drive. “My teammates did a great job of blocking for me. They kept telling me that we needed a little spark, and I was trying to pro-
2005 NCAA Division I-AA football Post-season brackets First Round Nov. 26 New Hampshire (10-1) Colgate (8-3)
Quarterﬁnals Dec. 3 Semiﬁnals Dec. 9 or 10
Northern Iowa (8-3) Eastern Wash. (7-4) Montana (8-3)
Page 2 - The University Star
Cal Poly (8-3) TEXAS STATE (9-2) Ga. Southern (8-3) Hampton (11-0) Richmond (8-3) Furman (9-2) Nicholls St. (6-3) Eastern Ill. (9-2) Southern Ill. (8-3) Appalachian St. (8-3)
Final Game Sunday, Dec. 16 at 4 p.m. in Chattanooga, Tenn. Airing on ESPN2
See POSTGAME, page 3
Bobcats to face Georgia Southern in playoff opener By Nathan Brooks Sports Reporter For the ﬁrst time in school history, the Texas State Bobcats will take part in the Division I-AA football playoffs as they take on the Georgia Southern Eagles this Saturday at Bobcat Stadium. The Bobcats ﬁnished the season at 9-2 overall, claimed a share of the Southland Conference Championship and received the No. 4 seed from the playoff selection committee, which will guarantee them at least one and possibly two home games during the playoffs. “Coach Bailiff has given this program stability, focus, pride and hard work. That’s what you have to have in order to achieve success,” said Larry Tice, Texas State athletic director. Their ﬁrst-round opponent from Georgia Southern is one of the most storied programs in the nation and is coming off an 8-3 season that saw them ﬁnish second in the Southern Conference. The Eagles were one of three teams to be selected from their conference, along with Furman and conference champions Appalachian State. Over the past decade, the Eagles have dominated Division 1-AA football winning seven conference championships and four national titles. Georgia Southern has won an unprecedented six national championships in its history.
The Eagles got off to a slow start this season, losing two of their ﬁrst three games, including a 27-23 loss in their home opener against McNeese State. Since then the Eagles have gone 7-1, including a 27-24 upset win over then-ﬁrst-ranked Furman on Nov. 5. Georgia Southern is led by a powerful wing-option offense, which leads the nation in rushing with 388.8 yards per game. The Eagles also rank in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense at 38.3 points per game and total offense with 467.1 yards per contest. Their rushing attack is led by senior running back Jermaine Austin, who is sixth in the nation averaging 127.2 rushing yards per game. This season, Austin has compiled 1,399 yards rushing on 210 carries, scoring 13 touchdowns. Over his last three seasons in Statesboro, Ga., Austin has been one of the nation’s elite running backs, earning third-team All-American and ﬁrst team All-Conference honors in 2004, and second-team All-American and SoCon Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2003. This season, Austin has joined 15 other players, including Texas State’s Barrick Nealy, on the watch list for the Walter Payton Award, which honors the country’s top offensive player. Also helping lead the way for the Eagles offense is sophomore quarterback Jayson Foster, who
THIRD LARGEST: With playoff hopes on the line, a crowd off 15,288 Bobcat fans, the has rushed for 1,330 yards and third-highest attendance in Bobcat Stadium history, packed in to witness a 26-23 overa team high of 19 touchdowns. time victory that brought Texas State its ﬁrst Southland Conference title. Foster has also thrown for 707 yards and six touchdowns, completing 30 of 57 passes on the season. The Georgia Southern defense has not had the same type of success as its offense this season; the Eagles rank 69th in the nation in total defense, giving up 370.2 yards of total offense per game, with 181.8 yards coming on the ground. The Eagles rank 29th in the country in scoring defense, allowing 20.6 Game Weather Saturday, November 26 at 2:30 p.m. points per game. Guiding the defense is junior Bobcat Stadium linebacker John Mohring, who leads the squad with 103 tackReserved Seating: $12 les, 10 tackles for a loss and three interceptions. Free safety General Admission: $10 75˚/ 57˚ A.J. Bryant is second on the Texas State Students w/ valid ID: $5 team with 65 tackles and is tied Precipitation: 30% with Mohring for the interceptions lead with three. Humidity: 77% Prepaid playoff tickets available for pickup Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. UV: 4 Moderate this Saturday at Bobcat Staditoday at Texas State ticket ofﬁce. Wind: SSE 9 mph um, and can be seen nationally on ESPN2.
NCAA Division I-AA First Round
Texas State vs. Georgia Southern University Game Information:
WEEKEND OF CHAMPIONS
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The University Star - Page 3
Volleyball team bumps to top of SLC By Chris Boehm Sports Reporter With the football team delivering on expectations, the volleyball team provided the weekend’s surprise, saving its best for last. Texas State rocked the Southland Conference, winning the league’s postseason tournament in dominant fashion. The Bobcats won nine of 10 games over the weekend in Arlington, including 3-0 sweeps against topseeded Stephen F. Austin and runner-up UT-San Antonio. “I wasn’t sure how these kids were going to react but they brought their best game,” Chisum said. “That is exactly what you want as a coach — for your players to be playing their best at the end of the season.” After dropping the Ladyjacks for the second consecutive year in the post-season, Texas State went to work Sunday afternoon against Interstate 35 rival UTSA. The two teams split the season series at a game apiece, but the weekend’s championship bout went to Texas State. “We stepped it up about three levels for that championship match,” Chisum said. The fourth-seeded Bobcats held the Roadrunners to a .153 hitting percentage, while attacking at a .362 clip themselves. Texas State rode its top two scorPhoto special to The Star ers to its second straight tourna- The team, coaching staff and athletic trainers assemble for a photo after capturing the second straight SLC tournament and title. ment win. Senior Liz Nwoke led all players with 18 kills, while Freshman-of-the-Year candidate Lawrencia Brown notched assists. match, minus a momentum- The Bobcats recorded just three 14. “Amy and Karry both put up changing ofﬁcial’s call in the last such mistakes, down 12 from Nwoke, the weekend’s MVP, top performances this weekend,” regular season meeting. the last meeting. headed a trio of Bobcats with Chisum said. Texas State again beneﬁted “These kids played very well,” all-tournament team nods (juChisum’s concluded the sec- from quality play by its seniors, Chisum said. “We have seen bits nior Karry Griffen and sophoond round by getting revenge as Nwoke led the way with 18 and pieces of the team we had more Brittany Prewit). Nwoke on the Ladyjacks, who defeated kills. Ramirez reached 20 digs for all year, but they put it on the — Karen Chisum Texas State in a closely-con- the second consecutive match, line and got the job done.” totaled 50 kills in the tournament, averaging ﬁve a game. Texas State now prepares for Bobcat volleyball coach tested match on Nov. 5 in San playing a key role in holding all “She had an up-and-down Marcos. but one Ladyjack to less than the NCAA regionals, to be held year, but she came through when we have is the main reason for perfect matches. Texas State “We put our focus on SFA,” 10 kills. The lone SFA player to the ﬁrst week of December. we needed it,” Chisum said. the success of the program,” opened with a 3-1 ﬁrst-round Chisum said. “We should have beat that number, Laura Cram- The Bobcats will know their “She’s always been a big part of Chisum said. “Hats off to Tracy victory over McNeese State, beaten them here at home, but er, notched 11 on a porous .081 opponent when brackets are what we do, and we hoped she’d McMillan and Zack Shaver, my who entered the postseason as we brought the intensity and te- hitting percentage. revealed Sunday. Earlier in the be playing like this at the end.” assistant coaches. Their work the ﬁfth seed. nacity we needed on the court.” Brown (13 kills) and Prewit (3 season, Chisum said the BobThe tournament win marks ethic has brought a degree of The Bobcats’ offense proTexas State handed SFA its ﬁrst aces, 11 digs) also ﬁgured into cats would most likely not play the school’s ﬁfth overall. Dating excellence to the team.” duced ﬁve players with at least 3-0 lost of the season and only the win. the University of Texas in the back to 1998, the Bobcats have Entering the tournament on 14 kills against the Cowgirls, defeat against an SLC opponent Against SFA, Texas State did ﬁrst round as they did last year, thrice been crowned either reg- a four-match losing streak, the led by Griffen’s 19. Libero Amy this year. The Ladyacks ﬁnished something it had been unable having played the Longhorns as ular-season or tourney champi- Bobcats erased all memory of a Ramirez paced the team in digs the regular season a perfect 19-0 to all season: cut down on ser- recently as Nov. 1. In 2004, the ons. rocky end to the regular season, (23), while junior Erin Hick- but were outplayed by the Bob- vice errors, an area that plagued Bobcats bowed out to UT in “The caliber of the athletes taking the title on three near- man recorded a match-high 66 cats for a second consecutive the team throughout the season. three games.
hese kids played very well. We “T have seen bits and pieces of the team we had all year, but they put it on the line and got the job done.”
POSTGAME: ’Cats prep for first NCAA playoff appearance CONTINUED from page 1
why, as a team, you have to stay grounded, and that’s why you vide that spark and give the of- have to play and go into overtime fense some good ﬁeld position,” and be productive.” Crosby said. Texas State proceeded to work The 5-foot-9 defensive back/ the clock down on its next drive wide receiver played in only his before making a play to move the fourth game of the season after ball downﬁeld and end the game working on the scout team. with its own score. “You want to talk about a Running back Douglas Sheryoung man and man and looking at the Nealy alteroptions when nated runs we asked to take before a pass the redshirt from and a late-hit him and he told personal foul us to do it. He’s on the Beara great punt rekats placed turner, you can the Bobcats tell,” Bailiff said. 38 yards from “We’ve got three paydirt. more big-time After an years out of Morincomplete ris Crosby. He’s pass, Nealy just an amazing scrambled kid.” for 28 yards Texas State was before ’Kats unable to capilinebacker talize on CrosAyo Akindona — Daniel Jolly forced Nealy’s by’s punt return, Bobcat running back fumble and though. The drive the eventual started with Morris Brothers’ two end of regulation. rushes for 7 yards to bring up a Following Session’s 5-yard run third-and-3. to Bobcat legacy, he ran around Nealy connected on a pass to the north end zone, only to be wide receiver Markee White, but piled on by most of his teamBearkats defensive back Robert mates and an estimated 5,000 of Herron forced White to fumble his closest friends. the ball and give possession to With the Bobcats’ victory and Sam Houston at the Bobcats’ 38- a Nicholls State victory one hour yard line. earlier, Texas State clinched a The teams traded punts until share of the Southland Conferthe Bearkats went 92 yards in less ence title and awaited the followthan 30 seconds to tie the game. ing day’s NCAA Division I-AA On ﬁrst down from their 8- selection show, where the Bobyard line, Pate found tight end cats learned of their No. 4 rankDustin Dziuk for a 47-yard gain ing in the ﬁeld of 16 teams. and immediately followed with With expectations high for a 44-yard strike to wide receiver their ﬁrst NCAA playoff appearMichael Malone for the game-ty- ance, the Bobcats will host the ing touchdown. six-time Division I-AA-cham“I don’t think that their two- pion Eagles of Georgia Southern play touchdown took a lot out University at 2:30 p.m. on Saturof us, but it was a bit dishearten- day at Bobcat Stadium. ing,” Jolly said. “But that’s what football is. It’s all about those Managing Editor Joe Ruiz contribemotional highs and lows. That’s uted to this report.
t’s all about those emotional highs and lows. That’s why, as a team, you have to stay grounded, and that’s why you have to play and go into overtime and be productive.”
Strong showing in season opener MAKING PLAYS AND SHOOTING TREYS: Sophomore forward Joyce Ekworomadu (shown here in the Nov. 9 game against Everyone’s Internet) had a career-high 23 points and 4-of-6 threepoint shooting during the Bobcats’ 77-69 upset over Oklahoma State. Ekworomadu earned the season’s ﬁrst Aeropostale Southland Conference Player of the Week Award.
By Kevin Washburn Sports Reporter Playing without preseason All-Southland Conference First Team selection Tamara Thompson, the Texas State women’s basketball team needed a strong effort from its veterans to have a chance against the Oklahoma State University Cowgirls. The Bobcats got that effort from starters Joyce Ekworomadu, Erica Putnam and Jeana Hoffman, and the result was a 77-69 road victory. Ekworomadu, a forward, and Hoffman, a guard, led Texas State on the perimeter, scoring with 23 and 16 points respectively. “Joyce made great choices on the offensive end and attacked the basket,” Coach Suzanne Fox said. “Jeana took good threes because of positive ball movement.” Junior forward Putnam was a solid contributor down low, putting in 17 points while grabbing a team-high eight rebounds. “Putnam did a phenomenal job making choices on the offensive end,” Fox said. “She took the right shots.” The trio scored nearly threefourths of Texas State’s points and came up biggest during the key stretch of the game. Down 66-63 with 3:41 left, the Bobcats went on a 14-3 run to close the game, with all of their points coming from the aforementioned three players. Putnam, a junior forward, started the run with a threepoint play after being fouled while making a lay-up. Fellow forward Ekworomadu blocked the next OSU shot and Putnam retrieved the rebound, was fouled and sunk both free throws. Hoffman got into the action during OSU’s next possession, stealing the ball but missing a lay-up. Sophomore guard Jenna Hoffman, Jeana’s twin, saved the play by grabbing the offensive rebound and dishing to Ekworomadu who sank one of her four three-pointers on the night. The assist was Jenna’s ﬁfth on the night.
Jeremy Craig/Star photo A Cowgirl three-pointer at the 2:15 mark temporarily stopped the Texas State run, cutting the Bobcat lead to 7169, but the Texas State defense tightened up, holding OSU scoreless the rest of the way. A jumper by Putnam pushed the lead to four. The ﬁnal three points came from Putnam, Jeana Hoffman and Ekworomadu free throws. Texas State also received solid offensive play from freshman guard Ashley Lefﬁngwell, who scored eight points and sank a pair of threes in her ﬁrst collegiate game.
In an evenly played game, an edge in three point and free throw shooting contributed to the Bobcat win. Texas State ﬁnished the game 9-21 from three-point land and hit 18 of 29 attempts at the line. Fox said with the graduation of star center Tori Talbert, Texas State will emphasize the perimeter game more this season. “We wanted to play to the strengths of the team,” Fox said. “We made some changes to the post play, affording us more movement around the court. We’re going to let them play to their versatility.”
The University Star — Weekend of Champions Edition is: Editor In Chief..David Michael Cohen, email@example.com Managing Editor.................Joe Ruiz, firstname.lastname@example.org Assistant Photo Editor.....Adam Brown, email@example.com Sports Editor..................Miguel Peña, firstname.lastname@example.org Design Editor......................Matt Rael, email@example.com
Page Designer.....Mershon Illgner, firstname.lastname@example.org Sports Reporter..........Kevin Washburn, email@example.com Sports Reporter...Chris Boehm, .firstname.lastname@example.org Sports Reporter...................Nathan Brooks, email@example.com Copy Editor..............................Emily Messer, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cowgirls sank six of 18 attempts from beyond the arc and went only 11-21 on free throws. OSU was led by junior center Whitney Pegram and junior forward Destanie Sykes. Pegram, the tallest player in the game at 6-foot-4, led her team with 21 points and also grabbed seven boards. Sykes had a teamhigh of 10 rebounds and also put in 11 points. Next up for the Bobcats is a six-game homestand starting with a 7 p.m. game against the University of Texas of the Permian Basin tonight.
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Page 4 - The University Star
WEEKEND OF CHAMPIONS
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
LIGHT ONE UP: Senior running back Nick Session celebrates with a cigar after scoring the winning touchdown in Saturday’s game.
Adam D. Brown/Star photos
IT’S JUST THE BEGINNING... T
hroughout the 2005 season, expectations for the Bobcats were the highest they’ve been in years. With more than 20 returning seniors, a number of transfers and established players, the goals for this team were clearly deﬁned from the start, both in the minds of the players and coaches and visually. In the Bobcats’ lecture hall inside the End Zone Complex is a large triangle on which the team’s 2005 goals are printed. That triangle, once only maroon text on a white background, is now awash in yellow, highlighting the goals met this season. Some goals still stand out in white, but those are few and far between. Two-thirds up from the bottom are the goals of making the playoffs and winning the Southland Conference championship. Saturday night, those goals were accomplished in the most gut-wrenching, yet entertaining, game of the season. From summer practice to the SLC trophy presentation, the Bobcats have had the late SWT head coach Jim Wacker looking over them constantly, in spirit
GUIDANCE FROM ABOVE: Melvin Webber (40) and Derwin Straughter pray on the ﬁeld — a pre-game ritual for the two senior defensive backs from Jacksonville, Fla.
and through the teachings of current head coach and Wacker understudy David Bailiff. The Bobcats have improved mightily since the season began nearly three months ago, winning rivalry games, coming back in the second half of close games and dominating teams when necessary. With Hurricane Rita threatening, the Bobcats gained national recognition by taking the then-ranked Texas A&M Aggies to the brink of upset. That was Texas State’s coming-out party. What’s next will show they’re here to stay. What will deﬁne this Bobcat team is the effort it mounted this season to accomplish those now-yellow goals on the triangle in the lecture hall. What will enshrine this team in the annals of college football history are the next four weeks and the third of the triangle that still remains white. Break out the highlighters, Texas State … It’s Just The Beginning… — Joe Ruiz
SHOWING SUPPORT: Coach David Bailiff and wife Angie watch the big screen in the SacN-Pac Room at Bobcat Stadium on Sunday morning during ESPNews’ presentation of the NCAA I-AA football playoff selections. Texas State faces the Georgia Southern Eagles at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in San Marcos.
SOCIETY OF CHAMPIONS: After defeating Sam Houston State in overtime, 26-23, the Bobcats celebrate their co-championship of the Southland Conference.
FINDING THE END ZONE: Junior running back Daniel Jolly puts the Bobcats up 20-13 in the fourth quarter. “That’s what football is. It’s all about those emotional highs and lows,” Jolly said.