STAFF AND SUBMITTED REPORTS
Texas State ran up the score, 66-28, on New Mexico State in Saturday’s season finale in an arresting four quarters of firsts and lasts.
The firsts: The Bobcats set school records for most points scored in a half, longest punt return and longest field goal en route to its second win against a Western Athletic Conference opponent.
The lasts: Seventeen seniors played their final college game in what was also the last football game in the 50-year-old WAC, which finally came undone this year with the defection of all but two of its football schools.
The Bobcats set the pace in the first 30 minutes as the team scored 49 first-half points on seven touchdowns. Offensively, the team did most of its damage on the ground with 243 rushing yards and an average of more than 15 yards per carry. The team totaled 446 yards on the ground for the game with four different players finishing with at least 45 yards rushing.
Texas State’s defense regrouped from a slow start and forced three turnovers for the game, while also recording nine tackles for loss and six sacks – matching the team’s season sack total entering the game. The Bobcats held the Aggies scoreless in the second half after allowing 28 first-half points. Senior Joplo Bartu put together one of the best games of his career in his finale, recording career highs of 17 tackles, eight of which were for loss, and four sacks.
Senior Shaun Rutherford led an impressive offensive performance by Bobcats, finishing with a career high for rushing yards in the process. Rutherford capped his career with a personal-best 138 yards on the ground in addition to throwing for a touchdown, his 15th of the season.
The Bobcats’ 66 points scored in Saturday’s contest were the most for Texas State since 2005 when the team hung 75 points on Oklahoma Panhandle State.
New Mexico State started the scoring on its opening drive when the Aggies marched 75 yards in seven plays to go in front 7-0, but the Bobcats responded on their first drive as the team went 77 yards – all on the ground – to tie the game at 7-7. Rutherford had a 36-yard scamper and fellow senior Marcus Curry followed it with a 31-yard run to get inside the New Mexico State red zone. Curry then capped off the drive with his 10th touchdown of the season, taking the pitch from Rutherford and diving for the pylon for the score.
Following an Aggie touchdown, Texas State tied up the game once again when Tim Gay took an option pitch from Rutherford, broke a tackle and raced up the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown. The score was the first of the season for Gay and the longest run for a Bobcat this season, knotting the game up at 14-14.
New Mexico State continued the scoring on its ensuing drive, going 75 yards for the third straight time to again put seven on the scoreboard and take a 21-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Texas State’s offense kept pace to begin the second quarter as the team ran the ball effectively deep into New Mexico State territory to set up an 11-yard pass from Rutherford to Brandon Smith that made the score 21-21. Smith’s touchdown grab was his second of the season.
The Bobcat defense would get in on the scoring act from there, turning two forced fumbles into touchdowns within a three-play span. Bartu sacked New Mexico State quarterback Andrew Manley, forcing a fumble that Blake McColloch scooped and went six yards with for the touchdown. McColloch then punched the ball loose from Manley three plays later which Jamie Clavell-Head returned 32 yards for the score and a 35-21 lead.
After a Terrence Franks 21-yard TD run, sophomore Craig Mager knifed through the New Mexico State punt coverage team for a 79-yard return that gave the Bobcats 49 first-half points. The punt return for a touchdown was the first for Texas State since 2010.
The Bobcats continued to put points on the scoreboard in their first drive of the second half when kicker Will Johnson broke his own school record with a 54-yard field goal. The boot bettered his previous record of 53 yards, which he set a season ago. The kick made it 52-28 Texas State just after halftime.
Texas State finished the scoring for the game on a 15-yard touchdown run from freshman Robert Lowe who hit the end zone for the first time in his career to make the score 66-28.
Prior to Saturday’s game, the 17 Bobcat seniors on the 2012 squad were honored for their contributions to the program. The team’s seniors playing their final game at Texas State were Ed Amerson, Joplo Bartu, Brett Blackburn, Marcus Curry, Adley Eshraghipour, Damon Grant, Chase Harper, Tim Hawkins, Jarrett Haywood, Brian Lilly, Jason McLean, Darryl Morris, Shaun Rutherford, Jonathan Ward, Thaddeus Watkins, Denzel Wells and Mario Wiggins.
Texas State finished its first FBS season with a 4-8 overall record and 2-4 mark in the WAC.
PHOTOS by RAFAEL MARQUEZ