‘Big moment for our program’: Texas State defeats Appalachian State, 36-24

Tory Spears had only one thought as he walked down Jim Wacker Field on Saturday night: “Don’t get caught, don’t get caught, don’t get caught.”

Moments prior, Texas State’s redshirt junior safety made his first career interception, catching Appalachia State quarterback Chase Brice’s pass as the Mountaineers drove, looking to set up a double-digit rally early in the third quarter.

With his legs churning on the turf, Spears cut to his right and with help from his teammates found the end zone to put the Bobcats up 30-3. It was one of many exhilarating moments for Texas State as they cruised to a 36-24 victory over Appalachian State in front of 25,613 fans dressed in maroon and gold – the most to pack Bobcat Stadium for a Sun Belt conference game.

“My legs started getting tired around 40,” Spears said. “It was my first [interception]. My adrenaline just surged. I still can’t believe it.

Texas State (3-3, 1-1 Sun Belt) entered Saturday’s game against App State (3-3, 1-2) as a 19-point underdog. But as the clock ticked down to zero, it didn’t matter what Las Vegas prognosticators were predicting as the Bobcats got what head coach Jake Spavital described as a “big moment” for the program.

“Just, overall, a great team win,” Spavital said. “Coach [Shawn] Clark has a very good football team. They are beaten like a lot of teams across the country right now. You know, this is a team that beat Texas A&M and went head-to-head with North Carolina. They had College Gameday at their university, and they did a lot of great things there. For us, winning this game was a big moment for our program. It was the first time we beat App State in school history. It took all of us.

Texas State’s offense quickly found a rhythm on their opening possession, marching to the App State 4-yard line. But Mountaineer cornerback Dexter Lawson Jr. crushed the Bobcats’ momentum with an interception in the end zone.

But Texas State picked up the momentum in their favor by stopping App State at 4th and 1st, moving into a good spot at Mountaineer 42.

The Bobcats scored first on a 2-yard touchdown from second Lincoln Pare. Texas State continued to swing, landing punches throughout the first half with a 2-yard touchdown pass from redshirt junior quarterback Layne Hatcher to redshirt freshman wide receiver Charles Brown . Texas State added a 33-yard field goal from kicker Seth Keller followed by a 23-yard touchdown pass from Hatcher to second-year receiver Ashtyn Hawkins to give the Bobcats a 24-0 lead.

App State scored its first points on the scoreboard with a 30-yard field goal from kicker Michael Hughes as time expired in the first half to move closer to 24-3.

The Mountaineers looked set to build momentum as they drove deep into Texas State territory before Spears destroyed App State’s hopes with a 94-yard pick to push the Bobcat advantage to 30. -3.

App State responded with three passing touchdowns — two from Brice to tight end Henry Pearson and one to wide receiver Dalton Stroman — in the second half.

But two field goals from Keller gave Texas State enough cushion to claim the 36-24 victory.

“Once the clock showed one, then zero, I’m pretty sure everyone had the same mentality as me – I was happy,” said Hawkins, who had six receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown. “I thank the crowd, I thank the fans, everyone who came. We wouldn’t be here without them.

Texas State’s 3-3 record marks the Bobcats’ best start to the season since 2014. The team’s 3-0 record at home to start the 2022 campaign is the best start at Bobcat Stadium since 2012.

“[We did what] we’ve done the last nine months, Spears said of Saturday’s performance where the Bobcat defense held App State to 41 rushing yards and forced three turnovers on tries, a fumble and an interception. “We prayed for this. We did that. I’m glad we got to show you all what we did because that’s what we did. We are really after it. We can do a lot. That’s what we do on defense.

Texas State’s campaign continues as it travels to face Troy (4-2, 2-1) on Oct. 15 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy, Alabama at 2:30 p.m.

Spavital knows the Bobcats will have to make the same effort they did Saturday night if they want to win their first road game of the season.

But, on a night when it all came together to defeat App State, the fourth-year head coach knows Texas State has proven it can compete with anyone.

“I just think it’s kind of a dynamic game for us to figure out what we’re capable of when we play together and play clean football and play football the right way,” Spavital said. “So it’s a big win for these kids in terms of confidence levels and showing them and showing everyone that we can play with anybody because [App State’s] a very good program.

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