A slow off-season College Football news day received some life when Sam Houston State announced Texas State would play in its yearly game at NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans. The Bearkats will take a different approach from 2023’s game which has them hosting a national brand in the Air Force Academy, by instead playing a regional rival in Texas State. The two schools have played 87 times since their first meeting in 1915, with the last meeting coming in 2011, a year before the Bobcats joined the WAC.
Although not a common occurrence, Texas State is no stranger to playing in NFL stadiums as the 2024 game will be the Bobcats’ fifth game in an NFL stadium. The Bobcats’ first game in an NFL stadium came in 1999 when they visited Raymond James Stadium in Tampa to play South Florida. The Bobcats nearly upset the Bulls, who were ranked #25 in Division 1-AA at the time, but fell short 17-10 in front of 26,282 fans.
The Bobcats would not come nearly as close three years later in 2002 when they played Minnesota at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, losing 42-0. The Gophers scored four offensive touchdowns in their first 10 plays and held the Bobcats to 129 yards of offense in front of 32,209 fans.
Texas State would finally get a win in an NFL stadium when they beat Georgia State at the Georgia Dome in 2014 by a score of 54-31 as the Bobcats gained 607 yards and only punted once to cap off a 7-5 season where they were unfortunately snubbed from a bowl. Tyler Jones threw for 267 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Robert Lowe gained 146 yards on the ground in front of 14,312 fans.
Two years later, Georgia State would get revenge at the Georgia Dome by defeating Texas State 41-21 in front of 13,179 fans. Texas State raced to a 14-0 lead early, but Georgia State scored 34 unanswered points and never looked back. Tyler Jones and Conner Manning both threw for over 300 yards, but a 20-point deficit was too much to overcome for Texas State.
Depending on how one defines an NFL stadium, two more stadiums could be added to this list. Texas State played UCF in 1985 at the Citrus Bowl, home of the Pro Bowl from 2017-2020, defeating UCF 48-12 after scoring 34 second-half points in front of 7,850 fans.
Texas State also played UTSA at the Alamodome twice in 2012 and 2018, losing a pair of one-score heartbreakers. The Alamodome hosted three New Orleans Saints home games in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
2024’s Sam Houston State game will arguably be one of the most anticipated non-conference games for Texas State since they moved up to the FBS in 2012. In addition to reigniting a storied rivalry, the Bobcats have the rare opportunity to play in a big-time venue. If this game draws well enough, SHSU-Texas State at NRG may replace the Battle of the Piney Woods.