By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (September 23, 2017) — Xavier Turner rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-20 Tarleton State (3-1, 2-0) win over West Texas A&M (2-2, at Memorial Stadium Saturday night.
Turner rushed 11 times for 111 yards in the second quarter, when the lager, more physical Texans began to impose their will on the Buffs, who they last defeated in 2013, the last time Tarleton earned a share of the Lone Star Conference championship. The junior running back scored on runs of 1 and 45 yards int the second quarter, sending Tarleton to the locker room leading 14-0.
Tarleton rushed for a season-high 242 yards and passed for a session-low 117 for 359 total yards, while WTAMU had 407 yards, 272 of them through the air. Of course, the Texans played turnover free football while WTAMU gave it away twice and the Texans scored seven points off them.
Daniel McCants was the lightning to Turner’s thunder for the Texans. McCants rushed 13 times for 87 yards. Woerner was 13-20 passing for 117 yards and also rushed for 22, actually gaining 38 yards on five scrambles but taking a pair of sacks that lost eight yards each.
Justin Houghtaling was 17-38 passing and somehow managed to avoid being sacked despite being hurried 17 times including four times by David Solomon and three each by Chase Varnado and Chris Radford, all defensive ends.
The first of Trleton’s second quarter touchdown drives was reminiscent of the drive that melted away the final seven minutes of a 30-24 win over Angelo State last week. That drive began with 6:58 remaining in the game and ended with QB Zed Woerner taking knee. It covered 63 yards in 12 plays.
This time Tarleton went 80 yards in 14 plays and kept the ball for 7:30. Turner converted second down and 18 with a 20 yard run, then rushed for 23 yards to reach the WT 29 after just five plays. Two passes form Woerner to Cornellius Carrington produced a first down at the 15, and two plays later, Turner rushed six yards to the nine. On third and four, Woenrer saw a hole in the middle and scrambled, seven yards o the two.
After 1-yard shovel pass to Jacob Kaspar, head coach decided it was Turner time, and he rushed twice to finally cross the goal line some nine plays after Tarleton penetrated the WT 30.
The lead would grow to 27-0 in the third. The Texans hit pay dirt on a 14-yard run by Turner following a fumble recovery at the WTAMU 23 by EJ Speed, his second takeaway in as many weeks after leading the nation in forced fumbles in 2016.
Later in the third, Tarleton QB Zed Woerner moved to the precipice of school history with his 56th career touchdown pass, one shy of the career mark held by Scott Grantham of he 2007-09 Texans. This scoring connection covered 21 yards from Woerner to Del’Michael High, who matched past Texan Le’Nard Meyers for hauling in the most scoring passes from the record QB with 12.
A 35-yard run by McCants, one of his four carries on the drive, set up the TD pass, and though WT was about to finally fire up its jets, the Buff offense arrived too late to the party.
When they finally did put points on the board, it took 12 plays and 5:17 to do so. Jordan Johnson carried the ball into the zone from three yards out with 52 seconds left in the third.
Alex Schrag finally got to witness one of his kicks attempts split the uprights on the ensuing PAT. Schrag was 0-for-3 kicking field goals, most notably blowing a 32-yard chip shot. The second was understandable as it was just left from 56 yards away, while the third, wide left again, was a 39-yard try.
Meanwhile, reigning LSC Special Teams Player of the Week Sergio Sroka stroked his only attempt, a 39-yard attempt with Woerner holding because D2football.com National Special Teams player of the week Ron Reid was in and out due to a minor injury. Reid returned for a punt that was significant in ending WTAMU’s hopes – a 50-yard effort that was downed at the Buffs’ 2 yard line with 1:41 remaining.
In between, they did draw closer with Brandon Blair scoring on a five-yard run and Schrag connoting to make it 30-14. Houghtaling hurried to the line and snuck into the end zone with 4:43 left, but while scrambling on the ensuing two-point conversion, Houghtaling stretched the ball out and had it knocked out of his hand with the fumbling resulting in a failed attempt.
That ended up being one of the biggest plays of the game, as it was the opportunity the Buffs needed to pull within one possession. Of course, Reed’s punt to the two would have had theBuffs’ odds looking bleak anyway.
Tarleton was flagged for pass interference on a fourth-down pass over everyone’s head and onto the WT sideline. It didn’t matter, as the TSU pass rush was wearing out the Buffs QB with David Solomon, Chase Varnado and Tyrell Thompson each recording hurries before a pass got tipped right to Elliott Hart for an interception.
Hart had nine tackles to go with the interception while linebacker Basil Jackson collated 11 tackles and two quarterback hurries. Jackson has 56 tackles for the season, averaging 14 per game. He has made double-digit tackles all four games this season and has at least eight tackles in nine straight games dating back to last year.
After tackles for loss on which he also forced fumbles that were returned for touchdowns the past two games, Tyrell Thompson found other ways to make an impact with seven tackles and a pair of hurries.
-Versatile linebacker Speed did not return after consulting with a doctor on the bench in the second half but there was no hint of a diagnosis. Shawn Best returned to tackle for the Texans, but the offensive line was not without shakeup Saturday. Guard Jovan Pruitt was on the sideline in full uniform but didn’t play in the second half. Cody Hays was shaken up and out for a stretch during the second half, too. That meant a lot of Pousima Gabloia in multiple roles for the Texans.
-With Turner and McCants chewing up yardage on the ground, Woerner was not asked to do a lot with his arm, but 117 yards did push his career passing yardage to 7,302. he’s fourth all-time at Tarleton with 965 between him and third-place Chad Cole. Woerner is not on pace to reach the record 8,203 of Steve Kelly, and would also need to pick it up to catch No. 2 Grantham and his 7,860.
-Tarleton visits UT-Permian Basin next Saturday at 6 p.m. and plays at Western New Mexico on October 7. The Texans won’t be back at Memorial Stadium until Eastern New Mexico comes to town on October 14….West Texas A&M is home for its big Wagon Wheel rivalry game against Eastern New Mexico at 6 p.m. next Saturday.