By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (October 14, 2017) — Tarleton State saw its Lone Star Conference title and post season aspirations all but dashed Saturday in a 24-15 loss to LSC leader Eastern New Mexico.
How did it go down? In just about every ugly way imaginable, but some significant flaws in Tarleton’s performance stood out and made the biggest differences. We sum up those below, in the First Financial Bank First Flash.
Eastern New Mexico 24, Tarleton State 15
-First of all, and it’s become a recurring theme just as it did down the stretch last season, Tarleton State can not get anything going in the run game.
-Second – if you have four turnovers, you lose. That’s just the way the game is supposed to work. Guess how many turnovers ENMU had? Never mind, I’ll just tell you- zero.
-Third – You cant leave points on the field in the kicking game when you’re playing a competitive opponent. Yes, the leader of your conference qualifies as competitive.
-Fourth – Catch the ball. And I don’t mean just cradle it when it arrives. Go up and own the ball. If it’s a jump ball situation, understand the concept of highest point, rip it out of the sky from there and hold on for dear life.
-Fifth – Last one I promise. Manage those timeouts and make a conscientious effort to avoid using more one in in the opening quarter of each half, especially in the second half of a close game. Tarleton took a timeout to get the right personnel on the field without a penalty as the Texans were down 15 but driving let in the third quarter. The Texans could have simply allowed the final seconds of the quarter to tick harmlessly away. There was no good reason to be without a timeout in the final moments. Just as bad was being flagged for delay of game on a sudden change drill following a block punt. By the way, the Texans also blocked a field goal Saturday.
Okay, those are basic enough, we can all readily agree they are important basics when it comes to winning football games. Let’s investigate the roles they played in Saturday’s loss.
Tarleton rushed the ball 22 times. For a net of 22 yards. Does that even need expounding? No? Good. Moving on.
QB Zed Woerner was picked off twice, one being taken back 68 yards to the Tarleton 30. It was the third interception returned more than 65 yards in the last two games. One of those picks, by the way, was a perfect third-down pass by Woerner, hitting Del’Michael High in the chest and bouncing right to a defender.
Tarleton missed a field goal and an extra point, resulting in going for a two-part conversion that also failed. That’s five points left out there by the specialists.
High should have caught the pass for a first down on one of the interceptions, and De’Jai Whitaker had a great second half, but he “catches” the ball, he doesn’t go “go take the ball” and that caused him to miss opportunities to change the narrative, one of them in the end zone when Woerner delivered what should have been a touchdown pass.
-Side note: Woerner almost missed on what should have been two TD passes – one slightly overthrown, one under, or the game is totally different, too. Thomas pushing off and getting caught for offensive pass interference when I thought he was going to burn the guy any way, took points directly off the board.
Fifth – Not having a timeout – much less two or three – prevented Tarleton from staying in the game until the very end. Th least real possession by ENMU was just difficult to watch with precious seconds ticking away and not a thing anyone could do about it.
There you have it. Five areas where Tarleton has to be better. Five basics that are supposed to be automatic, not problematic.
Instead, Tarleton takes a second straight loss, and bids farewell – most likely – to those lofty preseason goals that as recently as two weeks ago still appeared attainable.