By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 14, 2015) — Le’Nard Meyers is in the record book and Tarleton State (3-7) finished a season of unfulfilled expectations on a positive note with a wild 48-47 win over Oklahoma Panhandle State (5-5) in the last place game of the Lone Star Conference playoffs Saturday afternoon.
It isn’t enough to make up for a season of injuries and several second half collapses, but for their final half of football, the Texans did everything right.
Three weeks prior, Tarleton wrecked OPSU for a school record 84 points in a blowout, but the Cowboys made a return trip to Memorial Stadium and rode a stiff first half defensive performance – and a largely listless first half showing by Tarleton – to a 17-0 lead at intermission.
But in the second half, Tarleton looked like the team that routed the Aggies 84-47 on October 24 and nothing like the Texans of the first half. Or the Texans of the second half of losses to Texas A&M-Kingsville and Angelo State the last two weeks. And nothing even resembling the team that suffered the worst loss in school history, 63-0 to Texas A&M-Commerce, on October 3.
For one half, the Texans looked like the team so hyped at the beginning of the season. A team that could move the ball at will and score enough to make up for its defensive flaws. A team that came full circle for the season Saturday, and at the very least, avoided winning less than three games for the first time since a 1-10 season in 1995.
Tarleton scored touchdowns on its first seven second half possessions before taking a knee to end the game on its eighth. The Texans finished with 434 yards of offense – 2277 rushing and 207 passing – with 300 coming after halftime.
Meyers scored both his touchdowns in the second half on catches covering 26 and 14 yards. He fought off three tackles for his 27th career receiving touchdown, breaking the school record held by Devin Guinn.
The final Meyers score gave Tarleton a 42-35 lead, then things really got crazy.
Shane Truelove kept the ball on an option for a 29 yard touchdown and OPSU went for two and the lead with 2:25 left. The pass fell incomplete, and after an onside kick was recovered by Tarleton running back Joseph Sadler and returned to the OPSU 16, the Aggies allowed Jabari Anderson to score untouched to conserve clock.
Tarleton called timeout to think about going for two and a nine-point lead itself, but instead kicked the extra point, which ironically missed off the left upright. That left the score tied at 48-47, and fitting in a wild one, OPSU barreled right down the field the other way.
The second touchdown pass from Truelove to converted quarterback Eddie Thomas made it a one-point game with 47 seconds remaining, and again OPSU went for two and the lead. But the tpass was deflected away by a lunging Michael Saulter, and Tarleton held on after recovering another onside kick.
Derek Kiser replaced Zed Woerner in the first half and was 16-21 passing for 202 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Meyers had seven catches for 82 yards, while Sadler rushed 22 times for 151 yards and a score and Anderson added 67 yards and two TDs on 10 carries.
Cody Burscher had 12 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and an interception while Chase Varnado was involved in two sacks. Cornerback Jeremy Louis was significant to the win with an interception, a key pass breakup and an open field tackle to prevent Christopher McClendon from scoring after catching a pass in the right flat on the first two-point conversion by the Aggies.
Truelove was 23-38 passing for 322 yards, two scores and two interceptions for OPSU. He hit Devin Williams nine times for 147 yards and a score, and found Thomas seven times for 105 yards. McLendon had a big game, rushing for 207 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries.