By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (July 28, 2015) — After setting a Tarleton State record for single-game passing yards with 470 in his first start, Zed Woerner has officially been handed the keys to the Texan offense.
That means for the first time since 2012, Tarleton, picked to finish fourth in the LSC according to the official preseason poll released Tuesday, enters the season with one true quarterback.
Tarleton head coach Cary Fowler never used the term “quarterback controversy” when Aaron Doyle and Jake Fenske were alternating in 2013 or when Collin Strahan and Eric Matthews did the same to begin last season. Doyle was the last clear-cut starter three seasons ago.
But there’s one starting quarterback and one alone this season, says Fowler, who is 27-25 with one Lone Star Conference co-championship in five seasons as head coach.
“Zed Woerner is the guy. He’s earned it,” the head coach stated. “There’s not going to be a rotation or anything, he’s going to be the guy and we have a lot of confidence in him as the leader of our offense.”
Woerner began 2014 as the third quarterback on the depth chart behind Collin Strahan and Memphis transfer Eric Matthews. Strahan put up big numbers, but both struggled with injuries. Woerner appeared in seven games in the regular season but didn’t make his first start until the semifinals of the inaugural LSC playoffs.
At regular-season LSC champ Texas A&M-Commerce, none the less. On the same field where the Lions had raced past Tarleton 53-25 just five weeks prior.
Woerner delivered in a fashion no one could have predicted, completing 41 of 56 passes for three touchdowns and a school-record 470 yards, despite the offense coming up short at the goal line in the final seconds of a wild 56-49 loss.
The 6-2, 195-pound junior (then a sophomore) from Marble Falls was similarly effective the following week, but with a more traditional passing load. He was 20-33 for 316 yards and a touchdown at Midwestern State, which early in the year defeated Tarleton 27-23 in Stephenville.
And this time he also delivered in the clutch, engineering a six-play, 88-yard drive that culminated in a two-yard touchdown run by Zach Henshaw with 22 seconds remaining to lift the Texans to a 44-41 victory and third place in the league.
“He’s already been through some big battles at the end of games against good opponents,” said Fowler. “His two starts were at Texas A&M-Commerce and at Midwestern. That’s tough for anybody.”
Yet Woerner combined for 61-89 passing (68.5 percent) for 776 yards and four scores in those two games. For the season, he was 101-149 (67.8 percent) for 1,167 yards and six TDs. He was also intercepted three times.
He will have a similar smorgasbord of weapons at his disposal when he and the Texans report for preseason camp on August 12, exactly a month prior to their season and home opener against Findlay (Ohio).
Returning skill players are responsible for more than 3,900 career receiving yards and more than 2,800 career rushing yards. They operate with the protection of an offensive line that has four starters and a fifth regular back, led by All-American guard Nic Perez, a potential NFL Draft selection.
“Zed knows he just has to play within the offense because we have a great offense around him,” said Fowler. “It wasn’t like we weren’t already putting up some big numbers before he took over at quarterback, but he did a great job continuing what we were doing. You look at the numbers and it’s like our offense didn’t miss a beat with him in there.”
The Texans scored 437 points and amassed 5,228 yards in 10 games. That’s 522.8 yards per game, 51.2 more than the 2003 team that used 12 games – one in the NCAA Division II playoffs – to amass a school-record 5,659 total yards. In terms of scoring, the 2014 Texans are second in school history, but averaged exactly a touchdown more per game than the 2001 team that used 13 contests – two in the playoffs – to ring up 478 points.
“We’re going to be good regardless who is back there,” said Fowler. “Derek Kiser is a good quarterback. He went toe-to-toe with Zed in the spring game, but Zed has through the fires and proven himself.”
Kiser, a 6-2, 185-pound sophomore from Burnet, is No. 2 on a depth chart that also includes Alex Craig, a 6-6, 215-pound redshirt sophomore from Dallas Christian.
“They’re all good quarterbacks. I like our depth there like I do just about everywhere on our offense,” said Fowler. “And I like the guy we have as our starter.”