By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (October 16, 2015) — An inadvertent whistle stopped Tarleton (1-5, 1-4) from recovering a muffed punt in Eastern New Mexico (5-2, 2-2) territory late in the third quarter Saturday night, and the Texans never recovered in a 49-44 homecoming loss at Memorial Stadium.
Trailing 35-28, Tarleton punted and Tim Foley muffed an attempted fair catch. Protecting the player, officials blew the play dead, not realizing he wouldn’t catch the punt. Tarleton’s Jamarquis Durst came away with a clear recovery at the ENMU 39, but by rule, the inadvertent whistle forces a re-play of the down.
Tarleton shanked the ensuing punt out of bounds, and Eastern New Mexico began the fourth quarter with an 8-yard TD run by Jeremy Buurma, part of a big night by the quarterback that included 118 yards and three touchdowns rushing and 141 yards and one score passing.
It’s not like the Texans stopped fighting. And it’s not like they weren’t given a golden opportunity of their own.
Woerner lobbed a pass to Le’Nard Meyers in the back corner of the end zone and Meyers held on while being tackled for a touchdown on fourth-and-one, cutting it to 42-35 with 10:53 still to play.
Then came the golden opportunity – Dakota Hesskew forced a fumble recovered by Chase Varnado, but four plays later Tarleton had to settle fora 29-yard Blake Barnes field goal and still trailed 42-38.
Eastern new Mexico traveled 58 yards in six plays and 2 minutes, 50 seconds to score the game winner on a 13-yard burst by Kamal Cass, making it 49-38 with exactly two minutes remaining.
Tarleton answered in style, with Woerner hitting Le’Nard Meyers and Bubba Tandy twice each to set up a 5-yard TD lob from Woerner to Kason Fornes with 48 seconds let. Woerner had Jabari Anderson open for the two-point conversion but under threw the pass.
It wouldn’t have mattered. After the ball was loose momentarily on the ensuing onside kick, Adrian Horton covered it up for ENMU. Jeremy Doucette then converted on the ground on third and short to put the Greyhound win on ice.
Meyers had 11 receptions for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns while Tandy hauled in 10 catches for 113 yards. It’s the first time this season two Tarleton receivers have topped the century mark in a game. The same duo both topped 100 yards at Texas A&M-Commerce in an LSC championship semifinal last year. Dominique Martin had five catches for 97 yards Saturday.
Woerner was 30-50 for 382 yards and four touchdowns but also tossed three interceptions. In his first game back from a shoulder injury suffered two weeks ago, Woerner posted his fifth career 300-yard passing performance, his second of the season. The Texans produced a season-best 572 total yards.
Jabari Anderson topped 100 yards rushing for the first time in his career, finishing with 127 yards and two TDs on 16 carries. That included a 69-yard touchdown to tie the game at 28-28 early in the third quarter.
That score completed a stretch of back-and-forth 14-0 runs
Eastern New Mexico had its way over the opening eight minutes of the game, scoring on two long drives with an interception between for a 14-0 lead. Buurma kept it himself for a 24-yard TD run on the opening drive, then tossed a 35-yard TD Cameron Mikell on the second.
Tarleton answered with 14 points about as quickly. The Texans drove 90 yards on nine plays and got on the board with a 21-yard TD run by Anderson. The Tarleton defense then finally got a stop and Woerner went deep to Meyers for a 60-yard score and a 14-14 tie.
The Hounds regained their two-touchdown advantage with a one-yard TD by Cass and a four-yard burst by Buurma with just 1:02 remaining int he half.
Tarleton moved the ball quickly, covering 85 yards in nine plays and 56 seconds to pull within seven on an 11-yard pass from Woerner to Joseph Sadler. The Texans then evened the game with Anderson’s longest rush of the season early in the third, beginning the scoring in an equally wild second half.
De’Aundre Sanders returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown to begin another 14-point ENMU stretch. it concluded with Buurma’s 8-yard run with 14:17 remaining in the game, capping a drive that never would have existed if not for the inadvertent whistle on the muffed punt.
Hesskew made 15 tackles for Tarleton and Cody Burtscher finished with 11. Besides his fumble recovery, Varnado also had a tackle for loss when ENMU tried to convert a fourth-and short deep in Tarleton territory early in the fourth.
Cass rushed for 138 yards and two scores for ENMU, which racked up 526 total yards, 385 of them on the ground. The Hounds were led defensively by Lawrence Hall with 12 tackles and an interception.
Five losses in the first six games matches the worst start to a season by Tarleton under head coach Cary Fowler. The Texans lost their first five games before recording a win during his first season as head coach in 2010.
Tarleton, who has not won back-to-back homecomings since 2008 and 2009, hosts Oklahoma Panhandle State, at 7 p.m. next Saturday.