By BRAD KEITH
PORTALES, NM (October 15, 2016) — Tarleton State is looking for a third straight win and, more importantly, a 4-1 start to Lone Star Conference play.
But getting there will be no small task, as Eastern New Mexico welcomes the Texans to the new Greyhound Stadium where the Greyhounds have already knocked off West Texas A&M, 39-30. The Hounds, winners of three straight, are 4-2 overall and 4-1 in the LSC on the strength of their option-based run-heavy attack that has produced 347 rushing yards and 30 points per game.
Kamal Cass has rushed for 640 yards and seven touchdowns while quarterback Wyatt Strand has passed for 440 yards and rushed for 324. The Hounds are led defensively by linebacker Brad Hardin with 47 tackles, Cory Harris with four sacks and Desmond Blue with two interceptions. Nine different Greyhounds have forced fumbles this season while Harris has recovered three.
Tarleton is paced by Zed Woerner, a 65 percent passer for 1,362 yards and 16 touchdowns with three interceptions. His top targets are Bubba Tandy, 29-451 and five TDs, Del’Michael High, 28-425, 6 scores, and Jeff Thomas, 24-361 and two TDs. Joseph Sadler has rushed for 414 yards and three scores. Tandy also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown last week, earning conference special teams player of the week and HeroSports D2 Hero of the Week honors.
Cody Burtscher leads Tarleton and is ninth nationally in tackles with 68. The senior linebacker also has three interceptions and 4.5 sacks.
This is an interesting matchup between clashing styles. Of course, everyone’s style seems to clash with ENMU and its throwback, but effective, approach on the offensive side of the ball.
So what will it take for Tarleton to win? Here are my three keys:
1. Option Responsibilities: Read your keys, know your roles, trust your teammates. It’s all about responsibility defense today as the Texans look to contain Strand, Cass and this effective ground attack of ENMU.
2. Move the sticks and stay on the field: Tarleton has been slowly improving its third-down conversion rate in recent weeks, even going 8-12 in last week’s win over Western New Mexico. That could be an important stat today as the best place of the explosive Kamal Cass is over on the sideline while the Tarleton offense prolongs drives.
3. Don’t turn it over: Eastern New Mexico recovered three straight fumbles and that led to its 39-30 upset over West Texas A&M here a couple weeks ago. The Texans themselves have 14 takeaways this year, and turnovers seem to be the theme in deciding games this season between evenly matched LSC teams.