It was a long adversity filled week for Texas State football coming off a fourth consecutive loss that eradicated all hopes of reaching its first bowl game in program history while also dealing with numerous injuries piling up. Even with everything seemingly going wrong for his team, head coach Jake Spavital had no doubt that the players would continue to show up and fight.
That's what happened Saturday night when Texas State (4-7, 2-5 Sun Belt Conference) defeated Arkansas State (3-8, 1-6 Sun Belt Conference) 16-13 after redshirt junior kicker Seth Keller drilled a 29-yard field goal in the final seconds of the game.
“It just shows you that this team loves each other, they care about each other,” Spavital said. “They understand we’ve been through some unfortunate things, but we’re going to keep showing up. I’m really proud of these kids.”
The game was a battle of special teams as both teams combined for a total of 15 punts on the night as neither one was able to generate consistent offense throughout the first three quarters. Each team's kickers were responsible for 15 of the 29 points scored in the game.
While the offense struggled for most of the game, the Bobcat defense put together one its best performances of the season, holding Arkansas State to 4-17 on critical downs and 291 yards of total offense, the lowest number of yards a Texas State defense has ever held a Sun Belt opponent to.
“Our defense has been playing at a high level all year,” Spavital said. “We had a lot of talks about just being consistent and try to win a game on defense and we finally won a game in that fashion.”
Trailing 3-10 going into the fourth quarter, the Texas State offense finally came to life and was able to string together back-to-back scoring drives. The first one ended with a two-yard touchdown run up the middle by sophomore running back Lincoln Pare and the second with a career best 49-yard field goal by Keller giving the Bobcats a 13-10 lead with under four minutes left in the game.
Arkansas State responded with a nine-play drive capped off by a 23-yard field goal by freshman kicker Dominic Zvada tying the game at 13-13.
With only 31 seconds remaining at their own 32-yard line, overtime seemed all but certain.
However the Texas State offense had other ideas.
On the second play of the drive, redshirt junior quarterback Layne Hatcher connected with junior wide receiver Drue Jackson on a 21-yard out route down the left sideline that allowed Jackson to step out of bounds after making the catch stopping the clock.
Another 21-yard pass to sophomore wide reciever Donovan Moorer, along with a roughing the passer penalty called on Arkansas State, put Keller in field goal range with five seconds left and an opportunity to win the game.
Keller, having missed a field goal that would have given the team a win against Louisiana-Monroe two weeks ago, redeemed himself Saturday night by making the 29-yard field goal with just two seconds left, clinching the victory for Texas State.
Keller said he felt a tremendous amount of relief seeing the ball sail through the uprights.
“The ULM kick, I wouldn’t ever trade it for anything else,” Keller said. “I mean, I’d love to make it, but at the end of the day I knew what it felt like, so I was ready for this kick when it came.”
The winning field goal brings Keller just one shy of breaking the Texas State school record for a placekicker.
Spavital awarded the game ball to Keller for his resilience over the last few weeks. Hatcher and Pare also received game balls for their efficient performances against their former team which, according to Spavital, meant a lot to them.
Hatcher finished the game 23-36 for 196 yards while Pare finished with 75 yards on 19 carries to go along with the team’s only touchdown.
Spavital said the team will now turn its attention onto their final opponent of the season, Louisiana-Lafayette.
“They’re going to strap it back up again and we’re going to try to find a way to figure it out again next week against Louisiana [Lafayette] on senior night,” Spavital said.
Texas State will face Louisiana-Lafayette at 4 p.m. on Nov. 26 at Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos on Senior Night.