SAN ANGELO – No. 25 Tarleton improved to 4-0 in blowout fashion as the Texans thumped Lone Star Conference rival Angelo State 54-33 at LeGrand Stadium Saturday night.
With the win, Tarleton head coach Todd Whitten joins legendary coach W.J. Wisdom as the only two men in the history of Texan Football to boast 60 career victories for the purple and white. Whitten is now 11 wins shy of Wisdom’s school record 71 career victories.
It took less than 10 minutes of game action for Tarleton to make its presence known at LeGrand Stadium.
On the third offensive play of the game, Devin Hafford came up with his second interception of the season and first of two on the night to give the ball to the Texans on their own eight-yard line. That turnover led to a six-play, 92-yard drive by the offense – highlighted by a 52-yard run by Daniel McCants and capped off by a three-yard touchdown from D’Anthony Hopkins – to put Tarleton on top 7-0 just three minutes into the game.
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Two plays later, Hafford struck again.
The junior corner jumped an out-route and made his second pick in the first four minutes, which he ran back 30 yards for a touchdown and a 13-0 Tarleton lead.
Angelo State bent Tarleton’s defense a little bit on the ensuing drive, but the Texans never broke. Ed Hayes forced a red-zone fumble and Prince Robinson jumped on it at the Tarleton 18-yard line to give Tarleton the ball back. From there, Tarleton answered with a two-minute, 85-yard drive on six plays that McCants capped off with a 20-yard touchdown run for a 20-0 Tarleton lead with just over five minutes to play in the opening quarter.
After Angelo cut the lead in half with 10 unanswered points, Zimari Manning got the Tarleton offense rolling once again with a 65-yard touchdown reception from Ben Holmes. Angelo State would add a field goal before the game went into halftime at 27-13.
Out of the break, McCants’ play-making ability was in full force.
The junior running back took the first play of the second half 75 yards to the house for Tarleton touchdown. McCants would go on to finish the game with a new career-high 177 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. It’s his third 100-yard rushing performance of the season.
Manning would add his second touchdown of the game before the third quarter expired as the junior receiver hauled in a one-handed catch over the Angelo State cornerback to put Tarleton up 41-13 with four minutes left in the quarter.
In the fourth, Tarleton would continue to pour it on – beginning with the first play of the new quarter. Quarterback Ben Holmes found Camron Lewis on the other end of a 32-yard touchdown strike to begin the fourth and open the score up to 48-19. It was the first career touchdown for Lewis, who finished the game with five catches for 93 yards and the score.
Xavier Turner, who carried the ball 14 times for 60 yards, closed out the Tarleton scoring with a touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put the Texans over 50 points for the first time since 2015.
Ben Holmes enjoyed a career night throwing the ball as the Orchard Park, New York native tossed his first career 300-yard passing game. Holmes threw for 305 on 17-28 passing with three touchdowns. Manning was his primary target, going for 126 yards and two scores on five catches.
Meanwhile, the ground game continued its dominance with 281 yards on the ground led by McCants’ 177. Turner (60), Hopkins (37), and Adam Berryman (15) also contributed key roles in the Tarleton ground game.
This was the first 50-point performance by the Tarleton offense since scoring 84 against Oklahoma Panhandle on Oct. 24, 2015.
Defensively, the Texan defense held Angelo State below 100 yards of rushing (99) – marking the fourth consecutive game that a team has failed to top the century mark on the ground against the Texans. It’s the first Texan defense to accomplish that feat since 2009. Tarleton also forced five turnovers, including four interceptions – two from Hafford and one each from Jai Edwards and Chris Gordon – marking the first four-interception game for the defense since Oct. 25, 2014 against McMurry in Abilene.
Ronnell Wilson led the defense with 10 tackles while EJ Speed and Prince Robinson had nine tackles each. The defensive front continued to dominate by adding 12.0 more tackles to a loss to their season total, which entered the game ranked No. 2 in the country. B.J. Jefferson led the team with 2.5 tackles for a loss while Edwards and Speed had two each.
Tarleton will return home next Saturday for its annual ‘Pink Out’ game when the Texans host Eastern New Mexico at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.