By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (October 28, 2017) — Tarleton State cruised to a 28-7 homecoming victory over Western Oregon in a largely one-sided affair thanks to Savon Rollison’s big play, the wildcat featuring Xavier Turner and a lot of defense led by Devin Hafford and, who else, Basil Jackson. This is the First Financial Bank First Flash, my first thoughts following a victory that clinches a winning season for the Texans.
If you have followed the Texans a lot this season you understand what I mean when I say they have lacked creativity on offense at times. But he’s head coach Todd Whitten has reminded us in recent weeks that he knows a thing or two (or a couple thousand) about offensive play calling; and indeed he does know how to mix it up.
Whitten has used plays to get his quarterbacks out on the edge, resulting in less sacks and more looks downfield, and he’s also maximized the wildcat featuring junior running back Xavier Turner. The X-Man rushed for two touchdowns in goal line situations, taking direct snaps as the wildcat quarterback, and his third score Saturday was on basically the same run to the same hole, just off a traditional handoff with Kiser taking the snap. It’s the second 3-TD performance of the season by Turner.
Two good players, linebacker EJ Speed and slot receiver Savon Rollison each returned from injuries and made significant impacts, particularly Rollison with perhaps the biggest play of the game.
Facing third down and 16 after Western Oregon had just cut its deficit to 14-6, Tarleton needed a big play to avoid giving the opponent more momentum anda short
Just as big a star for the Texans defensively was Devin Hafford, the sophomore cornerback who has excelled in his first two seasons on campus, but this may have been his true introduction as a star in the making with two seasons and a couple games remaining. Hafford made 12 tackles, broke up five passes and forced a fumble. He even laid arguably the biggest hit of the game, reminding everyone good cornerbacks don’t just swat balls away and snare the occasional interception, but know when it’s time to get physical, too.
Kiser was 19-30 passing the ball relieving Zed Woerner. He did throw a pick, but all in all made mostly good decisions, and after the big play to Rollison, seemed to take over the offense with much more confidence.
The last two opponents, Midwestern State and Texas A&M-Commerce are each ranked in the top 10, but each will see a Tarleton team that is suddenly entering week 10 playing its best football at the right time of year. And that will make for a fun First Financial Bank First Flash on any given Saturday.