AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sophomore running back Ismail Mahdi does a little bit of everything for the Texas State Bobcats.
Through five games this season, Mahdi leads FBS with 934 all-purpose yards, averaging more than 20 yards per game than anyone else. Mahdi averages 186.8 all-purpose yards per game via rushing, receiving and returning, and the player closest to challenging him, Boise State’s Ashton Jeanty, averages 165.4 yards per game.
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In the Bobcats’ 50-36 win over Southern Miss on Saturday to kick off Sun Belt Conference play, Mahdi returned the opening kick 100 yards for a touchdown. He added 38 more return yards plus 89 rushing and 89 receiving yards to his tally for 316 all-purpose yards, plus three rushing scores to lead the Bobcats to victory. Mahdi’s opening kickoff return touchdown was the first for Texas State since Willard Dearing did it in 1959.
So far, Mahdi has 488 rushing yards, 166 receiving yards and 280 kick return yards while the Bobcats are off to one of the best starts in program history at 4-1. It’s the first time since 2005 the Bobcats have started like this, and with one more win, they’ll have their first 5-win season in eight years.
Bobcats head coach GJ Kinne said Mahdi is “a special player,” and is one of the reasons he chose to receive after winning the coin toss.
“We talked about starting fast,” Kinne said. “We feel really good about our kick returners. I wanted to get the ball in their hand. It really set the tone.”
Mahdi had his issues against the Eagles, however. He fumbled twice in the second half and the Bobcats lost both, but Kinne’s confidence in his young runner didn’t waver.
“He’s still coming into his own. It was kind of a fluke play, but it was a great learning moment for him and for the coaches,” Kinne said. “We have a lot of confidence in Ish, and he’s a big-time player for us. We’ll continue to coach him hard and get him better because we’ll need him.”
Texas State continues Sun Belt play at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, against Louisiana at Cajun Field in Lafayette.