SAN MARCOS, Texas — The Northwestern State Demons weren’t at their best Saturday afternoon, until they had to be.
The Demons recovered two fumbles in the red zone before the offense mounted an 80-yard drive, capped by Justin Aldredge’s clinching 33-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter of a 23-10 nonconference football victory at Texas State.
Northwestern State (5-3) came off an open date and handed former Southland Conference rival Texas State (5-4) its first homefield loss under coach Dennis Franchione, the former TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M coach in his first year in San Marcos.
“There are days when it’s not pretty, when you have to gut it out when you’re not playing your best,” said third-year Demons coach Bradley Dale Peveto. “We made enough plays on offense, on defense and in special teams to win today against a really good, extremely well-coached opponent.
“Our guys came through when we had to,” he said. “That’s what we did best today — make winning plays.”
Northwestern got fumble recoveries at the 12 by Wade Williams, after Lamont Simmons knocked the ball loose, and at the 4 by Ricky Isaac after a big hit by All-America linebacker Derek Rose to preserve a 17-10 lead coming down the stretch.
The Demons offense was held to six first downs into the middle of the fourth quarter but rang up six more in the last nine minutes.
The 80-yard drive featured three third-down conversions, the last when Aldredge took his second-ever handoff as a tailback for the Demons on a third-and-1, found a hole over left guard up the middle to cap a 10-play march to give the visitors a 23-10 lead with 4:45 to go.
The Demons never trailed, but after dominating the first quarter for a 14-0 lead, they spent the rest of the day holding the Bobcats at bay.
Texas State’s frustrations included three missed field goals (46, 42 and 36 yards) by true freshman Will Johnson, and losing the ball on downs at the Demon 13 with 3:31 to go.
The Bobcats outgained the Demons 330-290 as their unconventional triple-option attack carved out 247 yards rushing on a defense allowing only 125 per game.
Texas State all but overcame a 14-point first quarter by the Demons, with Johnson following two misses by connecting on a 47-yard field goal with 28 seconds left in the half to draw Texas State within 14-10.
The Demons zoomed ahead 7-0 less than two minutes into the game on a 47-yard run by receiver Phillip Harvey out of a wildcat formation.
Late in the period, a wide-open Louis Hollier ran a crossing pattern underneath the Texas State secondary on a 36-yard touchdown strike from Brad Henderson.
Otherwise, the Northwestern State offense was stalemated, producing a net of only 49 more yards on 28 additional plays by halftime.
Texas State was not much better, with 82 of its 153 yards coming on a touchdown run by Terrence Franks 9:43 before halftime on an option pitch.
Early in the third quarter, the Demons cashed in a costly mistake for a 17-10 advantage. John Shaughnessy booted a 38-yard field goal, his ninth straight make, after a botched Bobcats handoff recovered by the Demons Anthony Gilbert at the Texas State 27.
“The first fumble recovery helped us put points up. The last two kept points off the board,” said Peveto. “We focused on winning turnover margin all offseason, especially on creating turnovers, and today showed how important it is to winning games.“