A real Cats v Dogs rivalry hinges on a spurned QB
Several months ago, my co-hosts and I from FunBelt Podcast interviewed the “Voice of the Ragin Cajuns,” Jay Walker. At one point, I asked him who he considered to be the Cajun’s greatest rival. Jay launched into a miniature soliloquy. Appalachian State was the Cajuns greatest rival. No, it was Coastal Carolina. Scratch that – it’s Louisiana Tech! Or perhaps LSU. Yes, go ahead and put ULM in there, too.
At one point, it seemed that Jay would identify every FBS program (and more than a few FCS programs) as the Cajun’s mightiest rival. At no point was Arkansas State mentioned (at least, not without some sad prodding from me).
It was weird! It was dismaying! The Red Wolves – winners of five Sun Belt titles since 2011 – had played some rather spirited and deeply meaningful contests with the Cajuns over the decades. And yet, Jay was far more obsessed with statewide foes and Sun Belt newbies.
As it stands, the Red Wolves remain the lonely Warden of the Sun Belt West, shivering in our wolf skins for the lack of heat generated by unbridled hate. Sun Belt expansion provided rivalries for just about everyone but Arkansas State and Texas State, two Sun Belt West outposts looking awkwardly at each other from across the dance floor. Do we care to tango?
For Red Wolves fans, there are plenty of grips from which to grasp rivalry’s purchase. For example, the Texas State policy is now set by former A-State Chancellor Kelly Damphousse. How dare you, Boobcats! Still, a poaching of administrators doesn’t quite stoke the flames of rivalry. At least, not quite like a starting(ish) quarterback unceremoniously exiting Jonesboro only to pop-up in San Marcos.
The Butch Jones/Layne Hatcher experiment was doomed to fail pretty much from the start, and it should have be evident when Jones brought in Florida State transfer James Blackman to compete for the job behind center. Jones and Hatcher may have both shared a cup of coffee at Alabama, but that proved to be a fragile bond. One losing season later, Hatcher and his host of leadership skills jumped into the Portal, where he was teleported to San Marcos and Jake Spavital.
On November 19, the Red Wolves travel the 670 miles to San Marcos to face the Bobcats, with both teams very likely to be hovering around that magic 6th win. Heck, in the wild, wild Sun Belt West the winner of the matchup may even determine who reps the division in the Sun Belt Championship. The stakes will be high.
With Layne Hatcher behind center for the Bobcats, the emotions may be high, too. Nobody really knows just how acrimonious the relationship is between Hatcher and A-State, but one can easily imagine Hatcher grimly circling the A-State playdate while muttering mean expletives beneath his breath. After all, Hatcher won SBC Freshman of the Year with the Red Wolves. He threw for 7,000 yards and 65 TDs while wearing the Scarlet and Black. Surely, he’s motivated to prove that Jones and the Red Wolves erred.
There are more reasons than Hatcher for the two programs to intensify unpleasantries. In recent season, Texas State has overtaken Arkansas State in all revenue sports including football. Once a program wrestling with a radioactive FCS mentality, the Bobcats are no longer an instant L on any playing surface. In fact, the gridiron remains the last territory Texas State has left to conquer.
This alone should be enough for heated rivalry. But if we need Layne Hatcher’s thirst for vengeance fuels this budding process, I’m more than here for it.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mine