Swanson’s Pick-Six Lifts Troy Past Texas State

Troy pulled out another nail-biting victory Saturday with a balanced offense and a defense that again saved the day.
The running game, highlighted by Kimani Vidal’s 162 yards on 25 carries – including a 45-yard touchdown burst – helped the Trojans open a 10-point lead in the third quarter.
The defense provided some late heroics after Texas State took a lead into the fourth quarter. The Bobcats’ three fourth-quarter possessions ended with an interception by Troy’s Taiyon Palmer, a pick-six on a 33-yard interception return by Keyshawn Swanson, and a final pick by cornerback Elijah Culp that sealed the Trojans’ 31-28 road victory in San Marcos, Texas.
Swanson stepped in front of a Brady McBride pass that sailed as the quarterback hurried it in the face of a big rush by linebacker Jayden McDonald.
“The slot, wide receiver and the tight end ended up motioning over,” said Swanson, a transfer from Akron who started as a walk-on. “I knew they were going to come with the rub route. The play started, I had to come over the top because it was a mesh route. My defensive line, he (McBride) wasn’t about to plant his feet. He tried to lead his receiver too much, and I came over the top. The rest was just a blur.”
The play lifted Troy back into a lead it had enjoyed for most of the game. Still, McBride made enough plays to keep the Trojan defense on the field on third downs. Texas State converted on 8 of 16 third downs. Troy was 7 of 14. Through three quarters, McBride was 19-for-24 passing for 247 yards and three touchdowns.
“Defensively, we just kept telling each other, ‘Play the next play. Play the next play,'” Swanson said. “We knew our time was coming, and we knew our chances would come. We just had to slow everything down and stay focused and key into the big plays.”
The big plays finally came for Troy in the fourth quarter, and they came in bunches.
“Taiyon made his pick, then me, then Culp after that,” Swanson said, adding Palmer’s pick was “a game-changer.” “We knew we could get them off the field on third down, and he came up big with the third-down play. He made the play at the right time.”
Playing its second consecutive game with Gunnar Watson at quarterback for Taylor Powell, Troy has its first two-game winning streak of the season. Troy won the turnover battle 4-0. The Trojans improved to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in Sun Belt Conference play. Texas State fell to 2-4 and 1-1 in the league.
Troy head coach Chip Lindsey called it a “good team win.”
“Really proud of my guys. I thought they dug down deep,” Lindsey said. “We ran for over 200 yards. The defense continued to play well and got the big turnovers in the second half.”
Watson finished the game 22 for 29 passing for 182 yards and a touchdown. McBride was 22 for 32 for 279 yards, three TDs and three interceptions. 
Troy outgained Texas State 205 yards to 91 on the ground. 
“I’m real proud of the O-line,” Lindsey said. “We made a concerted effort to run it. We felt like we could. Our matchups, we felt, were pretty good. And we’ve got good tailbacks. That’s something we’ve been trying to do all year. The last three weeks, we’ve made a lot of strides in that area.
“I think when you can do that on the road and you’ve got a good defense, you’re going to have a chance to win some games. Obviously, we’ve still got a lot to improve on offensively. We’ve got to find some explosive plays. But at the same time, really proud of how those guys played up front.”
He also was pleased with Vidal’s production. The running back had been banged up in recent weeks but showed a good burst, especially on his 45-yard touchdown run on Troy’s second possession for a 10-0 lead.
“He’s getting healthier,” the coach said of his starting running back. “This bye week couldn’t come at a better time for him.”
B.J. Smith also gained 56 yards on 11 carries.
Troy enjoyed a fast start to the game on defense and offense. The defense, already leading the nation in sacks and negative plays, sent a message right away with a pair of sacks against Texas State quarterback McBride on two of the Bobcats’ first three offensive snaps. A third sack was nullified by a defensive penalty.
Troy opened the scoring with Brooks Buce’s 34-yard field goal on Troy’s first possession. Vidal’s long TD run ended the second.
A mishandled punt snap led to a partially blocked kick and set up Texas State’s first score. Brock Sturges scored on a direct snap from 2 yards out with 18 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Trojans immediately responded. Watson hit Tez Johnson for 33 yards and a touchdown on a nice seam route in the end zone and a 17-7 advantage.
Texas State cut it to 17-14 just two plays from scrimmage later on McBride’s long pass to Javen Banks that covered 75 yards. That was the halftime score.
Troy rebuilt its lead to 10 when McDonald recovered a fumble at the Texas State 36. A pass from Watson to Deyunkrea Lewis covered 23 yards and helped set up Vidal’s 1-yard TD run.
The Bobcats stormed into the lead on a McBride pass to Ashtyn Hawkins with 3:32 left in the third quarter.
They then recovered an onside kick and McBride hit Trevis Graham for 21 yards and the touchdown at the 1:09 mark.
That set up a huge fourth quarter for the Trojan defense.

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