By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (October 2, 2016) — Tarleton State was a prohibitive favorite for the first time this season, and the Texans acted like it Saturday night.
Tarleton jumped on Texas-Permian Basin, gaining a 14-0 advantage before the game was five minutes old, and cruising from there in a 48-20 win in front of almost 7,000 fans on Family Weekend at Memorial Stadium.
As usual, a few things went right in the win, while others went wrong. Here are my takeaways from the proceedings:
1. WOERNER REMAINS HOT: Zed Woerner passed for a career best four touchdowns, two of them to Del’Michael High and one each to Jabari Anderson and Jeff Thomas. The game’s first TD to High on a post rout was most impressive, with Woerner threading the needle to hit the junior receiver between and a step behind the two safeties. Woerner was 17-24 passing for 286 yards. It was not, of course, the best secondary he’s faced, but he also had a nifty pass just over the outstretched hands of a linebacker on the TD to Anderson, and exploited big mismatches with High and Thomas challenged by young cornerbacks.
2. DEFENSIVE TOUCHDOWN: Todd Whitten said it himself during his radio show Thursday – it happens, but it’s rare that a team gives up a defensive touchdown and wins in college football. Tarleton was going to be fine without Basil Jackson’s 41-yard pick six on the final play of the first quarter, but it helped to give the Texans complete control. That, and an interception by Cody Burtscher that he returned to the two-yard line to set up a one-play score for the offense to help make it 14-0 early. Jackson’s return was the first defensive touchdown of the season by the Texans, who now have seven interceptions and have recovered five opponent fumbles for 12 takeaways. Conversely, Tarleton has just five giveaways this season. That’s why they are 2-1 in the Lone Star Conference.
3. CASHING IN OPPORTUNITIES: Tarleton didn’t just take the ball away and create opportunities, the Texans cashed them in, and oftentimes did so quickly. Basil cashed in his own opportunity, Burtscher’s interception was turned into a touchdown on the next play and a 55-yard punt return by Bubba Tandy also led to a 1-play TD on the strike from Woerner to Anderson. It’s not just about getting opportunities but about turning them into points – and wins.
4. CLEAN UP SPECIAL TEAMS: I’m pretty sure the blocked punt Saturday was an anomaly, as Ron Reid, who hasn’t had one truly blocked all season, dropped the ball and basically drop kicked it off the ground into a group of Tarleton up-backs and UTPB rushers. But it is an alarming trend as the Texans have now had five kicks blocked the last three games. Tarleton’s other special teams units have been successful, however, with nice kick returns out between the 30 and 40 yard-lines and the big punt return by Tandy that set up a quick-strike TD.
5. RUNNING AND STOPPING THE RUN: Tarleton allowed a fourth consecutive 100 yard rusher in UTPB’s Brandon Infiesto, and the Texans again struggled to run the ball themselves. Tarleton is allowing 168.6 yards rushing per game and gaining just 104.8, much of the latter due to big ground performances by Joseph Sadler against Southwest Baptist and Angelo State. At WTAMU, the Texans averaged just two yards per carry, and they gained just 2.3 per carry against UTPB. The good news defensively is the Texans have actually improved quite a bit against the run, allowing 127.4 yards per game less than the 296 they were surrendering last year.
6. GREAT CROWD: Home field advantage should be a big part of football, and it was Saturday. Tarleton officials listed 6,735 as the attendance, and I’m not sure it wasn’t even more than that. The home stands were full at game time, while the visiting bleachers – which also included home fan overflow – and the south end zone were also a bevy of activity. It was a great family weekend at Tarleton, and the Texans need support again like that next week against Western New Mexico.
Photos courtesy Dr. CHET MARTIN