Tyler Jones set a couple of school records in Texas State's season opener against Ohio University. He also led the Bobcats to their biggest win in several years, over a 21 point favorite on the road and launched the Everett Withers era in a big way.
Let's look inside the numbers at Jones' opener in Athens.
Start Slow, End Fast
Jones first quarter stats were average at best, 3-5 for 29 yards. The second quarter was better but featured two picks, including one off a deflection. By the second half and overtime Jones was humming. Jones went 24-29 for 259 yards and four touchdowns in the second half and overtime period. That's an 83% completion clip. That's beyond elite.
With Texas State trailing 16-14 in the 3rd, Jones led an eight play 75 yard touchdown drive, all through the air, that took less than two minutes off the clock. On that drive Jones went six of seven, distributing the ball to five different receivers.
In the 4th, during the game tying drive, Jones was lights out, going four for four and leading his team 61 yards, all through the air in under 33 seconds to set up the game tying field goal. Oh, and Jones caught the eventual game winner on a wide receiver pass in the third overtime. Clutch.
Jones' yards per attempt and completion both increased as the game drew along. In the fourth quarter, Jones averaged over nine yards an attempt and over eleven yards a completion.
Who are These Guys?
It's one thing to set school records with receivers your comfortable with, it's another to do with guys getting their first real action as was the case with Jones receiving corps on Saturday. Junior Eric Luna led the Bobcats with ten catches, Luna hadn't caught a ball prior to Saturday. Luna's jersey didn't even have his name on the back of it on Saturday. Elijah King was making his first start after transferring from junior college in the spring. Junior tight end Gabe Schrade caught six balls Saturday, or five more than he's caught his entire career. Thurman Morbley is a true freshman, P.J. Anderson a redshirt sophomore hadn't made a catch prior to Saturday.
Jones was sacked six times by Ohio. Ohio's front seven spent quite a bit of time in Texas State's backfield, registering 13 tackles for loss. Four of the six sacks occurred in the first half, with Jones more effective at evading the rush in the second half. Only Troy allowed more sacks during the opening weekend.
Texas State's offensive line is a work in progress. Withers noted as much in his postgame remarks. The Bobcats never established a consistent running threat and were overmatched by a superior Ohio front. Jones gets credit for putting up record setting numbers with defenders in his face.
Lack of Explosion
Despite tying a school record for passing yards, Jones managed five explosive plays (plays covering 20 yards or more). Two to Elijah King, including a tipped ball touchdown, one to Gabe Schrade, one to Eric Luna, and a 38 yard completion to Tyler Watts. Two of the four came in the last two minutes of regulation when Jones himself scampered for 40 yards. His yards per attempt, 7.6, was actually in the 49th percentile among quarterbacks with 14 or more attempts. 28 of Jones 41 completions were for 10 yards or less on Saturday.
By comparison, Tech's Patrick Mahomes managed eight explosive plays in eleven less attempts in week one. 17 of Mahomes 31 completions went for eleven or more yards. Stretching the field vertically has been hard to come by for Jones over his career, Jones has averaged 16 explosive passing plays per year. Compare that with Greg Ward, who's averaged 25 in a similar spread rushing attack at Houston and Patrick Mahomes who averaged 32 such plays. Withers offense will put more pressure on the defense downfield, but that is dependent on whether Jones' offensive line will hold up.
First Start Strength
Jones is known for coming out strong in his first starts over his career. As a freshman, against Wyoming, in his first ever start Jones went 14-18 and led his team to a win over the Cowboys. As a sophomore against Arkansas Pine Bluff, Jones completed 84% of his passes in the season opener. In Jones only loss as a starter, he still managed to complete 65% of his passes against Florida State in Tallahassee.
2016 started with a bang, Jones is among the national leaders in completions, attempts, and completion percentage. He led his team to what was considered an improbable win over Ohio on the road with a shaky running game and a porous offensive line. We thought Jones might fit right into Everett Withers' new offense and the early returns show we were right.