Sunday, November 1, 2020

App State Rolls Past Texas State in Sun Belt Action

SAN MARCOS, Texas — A day of eye-catching firsts contributed to App State moving forward with no Sun Belt Conference losses on its record.

App State built a lead with first-time touchdowns from a trio of Mountaineers, who remained unbeaten in league play with a 38-17 victory at Texas State.

App State (5-1, 3-0) led 24-10 at the break thanks to first-half scores on a 32-yard catch from tight end Miller Gibbs, a 49-yard interception return from linebacker Brendan Harrington and a 1-yard reception from part-time fullback Caleb Spurlin, a starting defensive end.

Shemar Jean-Charles' third-quarter interception at the App State 9-yard line preceded a 91-yard touchdown march from the Mountaineers, capped by Zac Thomas' third touchdown pass of the day, a 9-yard connection with Jalen Virgil. Camerun Peoples closed the scoring on his 32-yard touchdown run with 5:59 left in the game against the Bobcats (1-8, 1-4).

"Any time you win in college football you take it, I don't care if it's 2-0 or 100-99," App State head coach Shawn Clark said. "We were down here a few years ago and won on a last-second play and celebrated like crazy. We're going to celebrate tonight and, road warriors, it's off for a week and we're back home at The Rock."

App State traveled to the Central time zone for the second straight week and followed up a 31-13 win at ULM with another one-sided victory. The Mountaineers used a balanced effort to maintain their unblemished Sun Belt record going into next weekend's home game against Georgia State (3-3, 2-3).

Daetrich Harrington accounted for 113 of App State's 258 rushing yards, and Thomas completed 18 of his 27 passes for 168 yards with no interceptions. He  hooked up with 10 different receivers while moving into third place on App State’s list for career touchdown passes (increasing his total to 60) and fourth place for career total offense (7,157 yards). On special teams, Chandler Staton made his only field goal try, a 33-yard attempt with 15 seconds left in the first half.

Demetrius Taylor and Jalen McLeod contributed sacks Saturday to help lead a defense that benefited from a career-high 10 tackles by D'Marco Jackson, who added 1.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups. The Mountaineers forced two turnovers, limited Texas State to four conversions on 12 third-down tries and no conversions on three fourth-down attempts — all in the second half. Those stops were made on snaps from the App State 28 (ending with Jean-Charles' interception), the Texas State 47 and the App State 19. 

"We gave up a couple opportunities, but all the mistakes, they're on us and they're things we can fix," Brendan Harrington said. "I think we played well as a defense. We got to the quarterback and pressured him a lot and closed a lot of gaps."

A collision between two defenders on a deep throw helped Texas State connect for a 75-yard touchdown pass on the third play from scrimmage, but App State responded with a touchdown drive that included a 14-yard catch by Gibbs on a third-and-3 pass to avoid a quick punt.

Four plays later, after tight end Henry Pearson had fallen on a teammate's fumble, Gibbs scored his first career touchdown.

"Miller Gibbs came in and gave us a shot in the arm," Clark said. "I thought our tight ends played excellent today, and Miller Gibbs was a big part of that. We're going to need more people, because as we get into this stretch, people are going to get banged up, but it's a next-man-up mentality."

App State took the lead for good late in the first quarter, when Harrington came up with his third interception of the season on a throw toward midfield. He found an opening along the Mountaineers' sideline and received help from Jackson's blocking to reach the end zone.

Jackson's defensive work turned a first down from the App State 21 into a short field goal for Texas State on its next possession, and the Mountaineers increased their advantage with an 11-play, 75-yard drive.

Christian Wells' 15-yard reception on a third-and-9 play extended the drive, and Spurlin entered the game as a fullback for a first-and-goal snap. Having blocked on short touchdown runs against Campbell and ULM, Spurlin leaked out to the right and was unguarded as he hauled in a short pass from Thomas.

"In high school, all four years, I played both sides of the ball, so I had played some fullback," Spurlin said. "It's pretty second nature to me at this point, so it wasn't anything really new or tricky for me."