By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (September 17, 2016) — Tarleton State played touchdown free defense for the first time in almost five years and held a Lone Star Conference team under 10 points for the first time in almost seven years Saturday night.
The Texan defense limited Angelo State (1-2, 0-1) to just 222 total yards as Tarleton (1-2, 1-0) dominated its Lone Star Conference opener, 35-5, at Memorial Stadium.
It was the first win for the Texans since the return of head coach Todd Whitten, who celebrated with his team in the locker room as athletic director Lonn Reisman presented him with the game ball.
Whitten or Reisman should probably also save a game ball for first-year defensive coordinator Marcus Patton, whose crew was dominant throughout the contest, especially in the second half when ASU had just five first downs and 102 total yards.
The last time Tarleton didn’t allow a touchdown and surrendered less than 10 points in an LSC contest was in a 13-6 win over Abilene Christian on October 24, 2009.
The offense wasn’t bad either, with Bubba Tandy hauling in two touchdown passes from Zed Woerner while Joseph Sadler and Curtis McGregor each broke off long touchdown runs.
Sadler rushed for 151 yards on 20 carries and McGregor added 72 on nine, as the Texans rushed for 244 of their 389 total yards. They won by 30 for only the third time this decade and celebrated their largest margin of victory against Angelo State since November 4, 2006.
Tarleton took a 17-16 lead in its all-time series against ASU, setting the stage for next week’s trip to West Texas A&M. Kickoff at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium in Canyon is 6 p.m. Saturday.
The Texans finished the game on a 35-2 run after Angelo State scored the game’s first points. Tarleton scored twice in the final three minutes of the first half to take the lead for good, then poured it on in the second half, outscoring the Rams 26-2.
Tarleton jumped ahead 9-3 on a 38-yard touchdown strike from Woerner to Tandy. The drive was set up by one of numerous big special teams plays as true freshman Taylor Massey deflected a punt that bounced along the turf for 15 yards before being downed and turned over to the Texan offense at the ASU 48.
Tandy struck again early in the third, taking a short pass over the middle, spinning away from the only defender to beat and waltzing into the end zone for a 12-yard TD and a 15-3 lead. He finished with four catches for 76 yards, the leading receiver for Woerner, who was 11-25 for 148 yards. The junior quarterback finished 10-16 after beginning the game just 1-9.
The second Tandy score was set up by who else – the Texans defense. Birdel Hodge forced a fumble that was recovered by Cody Burtscher, and Tandy was celebrating in the end zone five plays later.
The extra point was blocked and Fred Lawrence returned it to the house to make it 15-5, but it didn’t matter.
John Bellefield, who was suspended the first half Saturday, intercepted a pass and returned it 36 yards to the ASU 12, setting up the first of two TDs by McGregor. The 3-yard burst opened up a 22-5 lead.
A sack by Dariet McDuff forced an ASU punt, and Sadler scored on the second play of the ensuing drive. He started to the left and already had a big gain before reversing field from the ASU sideline all the way to the Tarleton sideline for a 73-yard gallop and 28-5 advantage late in the third quarter.
That kick was also blocked, one of three that ASU got a piece of on the night. The Rams lead the nation with six blocked kicks this season.
McGregor put the final nail in the ASU coffin, sidestepping two defenders in the backfield and punishing several others as he bowled his way down the field for a 53-yard TD run that finished the scoring early in the fourth. The last four scoring drives by Tarleton were all five plays or less.
ASU still appears unsettled at quarterback. Starter Jake Faber was pulled after his second interception, going just 6-14 for 48 yards. Less mobile backup Jesse Drummer was no better, going 3-11 for just 39 yards as the Rams passed for only 87 yards all night. Ram quarterbacks were sacked five times by a Tarleton defense that was led by Burtscher with 11 tackles, a half sack, a half tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
Josh Stevens had a productive night in the backfield for ASU, rushing 23 times for 128 yards. Donovan Thompson hauled in five catches for 58 yards for the Rams, who were led defensively by Melvin Robinson with 13 tackles including 1.5 sacks.
After a scoreless first quarter dominated by both defenses, ASU began the scoring with a 41-yard field goal by Casey Eyman. Tarleton answered with a 39-yard field goal by Sergio Sroka and took over from there.
Notes: Tarleton senior cornerback Dominique Myers, who converted from wide receiver this season, intercepted a pass but was later helped off the field with what appeared to be a knee injury. No diagnosis was given following the game…Tarleton running back Jabari Anderson did not play…John Bellfield’s first half suspension was because of a targeting penalty in last week’s 31-28 loss to Southwest Baptist. Treston Ridge played in both halves despite being penalized last week for a late targeting foul that helped SBU drive for a game-winning field goal. Officials reviewed the play and ruled Ridge should not have been penalized…West Texas A&M is up next for Tarleton. Inclement weather forced the Buffalos game with Texas-Permian Basin to be moved from Saturday evening to 11 a.m. Sunday in Odessa.