By BRAD KEITH
COMMERCE (November 12, 2016) — Tarleton State closes out its 2016 football season Saturday at No. 8 Texas A&M-Commerce.
The Texans won’t be playing for a share of the Lone Star Conference football title, and for them, there is no playoff spot or Division II bowl appearance on the line.
But Tarleton (5-5, 5-3) does have an opportunity Saturday to pull off an upset that could cost the Lions a playoff spot and share of the LSC crown and give the Texans a boost of momentum entering offseason and prime time for recruiting both high school and junior college prospects.
What are the keys for the Texans as they take on a second straight highly ranked and nationally respected opponent? See below:
1. KEEP WOERNER UPRIGHT: This has been a trending key the last couple weeks, and for good reason. Tarleton State quarterbacks have been sacked 38 times this year, including four last week in a five-point loss to No. 11 Midwestern State.. There were actually nine sacks three weeks ago against Texas A&M-Kingsville. Woerner needs just one touchdown pass to tie the Tarleton career record of 51 held by Steve Kelly. He is also five touchdowns short of Kelly’s 2001 single-season mark of 29 scoring passes. But, he doesn’t get those records if he spends the afternoon on his back or throwing the ball away.
2. BE OPPORTUNISTIC: Tarleton’s EJ Speed leads the nation in forced fumbles with five and Dominique Martin is 16th in the nation with five interceptions. Additionally Cody Burtscher is eighth with three fumble recoveries and Chase Varnado and Dariat McDuff are among those tied for 24th in the nation with three forced fumbles. That’s all led to Tarleton having 30 takeaways and 16 giveaways in the turnover department, a positive margin of almost 2-to-1. The Texans will need to continue to be opportunistic, and then to cash those opportunities in against the talented Lions.
3. KEEPING BRINGING IT DEFENSIVELY: Tarleton held A&M-Kingsville to just 21 points when the Javelinas were averaging 42. Last week, they held Midwestern State to just 21 points and they were averaging 38. The Texans have improved this season by over 130 yards per game against the run and by more than 150 yards per game in total defense, and they will need every bit of it against an A&M-Commerce club averaging 42 points per contest.