Game rewind: Jones turns in career-best performance against Southern Mississippi

Sports Editor

In a game with 1,204 total yards, there was one player who accounted for more than a third of that total.

That rare distinction belongs to Tyler Jones, junior quarterback, who finished the 56-50 loss to Southern Mississippi Saturday night with a career-high 470 all-purpose yards.

His performance nearly allowed Texas State to come away with a victory despite its defense allowing 613 yards.

What Jones’ stats don’t tell you is that he needed to help his team rally from two double-digit deficits in the same game.

The first instance occurred with his team trailing 18 points after the first quarter. Jones needed only one quarter to eliminate the disadvantage and turned it into a 25-21 halftime lead. His 35-yard gain on a zone-read play fooled the defense into following the running back. Jones kept the football and found the end zone with little resistance.

“I just kind of took advantage of it,” Jones said. “We went out and saw some things that we could have done and we did them. They had their ups-and-downs.”

Later, Southern Mississippi went up 21 points with 13 minutes remaining. Jones responded with a 14-play, 84-yard drive resulting in a touchdown for Rob Lowe, junior running back.

Thirteen seconds passed and Texas State’s two-touchdown gap turned into just seven points. Jones beat every Golden Eagle defender with his legs, running down the left side of the field on a designed quarterback draw for 54 yards.

He even dragged a defender a couple of yards until he reached the end zone.

“He had a pretty good game,” said Coach Dennis Franchione. “He made some big runs for us. I think he ran better than a lot of people gave him credit for.”

The statistics through three games bear out a consistent theme: Jones is an improved quarterback in each facet of the game.

Jones’ completion percentage (69.4), passing yards per game (229.3) and rushing yards per attempt (7.1) this season are new career-highs.

His decision making, with another year of seasoning in the offense, is better too. Jones hasn’t thrown an interception on 85 pass attempts.

Compared to his peers, Jones’ 75.0 total quarterback rating is 33rd in the country and second in the Sun Belt Conference behind Louisiana-Lafayette’s Brooks Haack.

Jones has added approximately seven points through his rushing alone, putting him 10th in Division I. He’s almost exceeded his rushing total for his freshman season (257) on 56 fewer attempts this season.

“This is his third year to start and he’s playing like a third year guy,” Franchione said. “He’s grown a lot.”

He’s caught the eye of ESPN’s Mel Kiper, who said Jones is playing like a five-star player and could be a major league NFL quarterback down the road.

Kiper’s statement was before Jones’ performance against Southern Mississippi, in which he almost willed his team to a victory by himself.

Jones’ improvement is in part because of his maturation as a quarterback. The weight and muscle he added this offseason is a bonus, but there is not a substitute for being able to dissect what the defense is doing in real-time.

Instead of reacting to the defense, Jones is making the adjustment first and forcing the opposition’s hand. It’s a constant game of cat and mouse, but Jones typically has the upper hand in the battle.

“He understands the adjustments before we tell him,” Franchione said. “He’s telling us, which didn’t really happen at all the first year and somewhat the second year. His grasp of things is pretty good right now.”

Texas State will go as far as Jones takes them this season. If his performance against Southern Mississippi is any indication, there is room for optimism.

Follow Quixem Ramirez on Twitter at @quixem.