By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 11, 2017) — Dadgum those first six minutes, that 14-0 deficit that turned to 17 and ultimately 26-7 in favor of Texas A&M-Commerce. I say dadgum them because for 54 minutes Saturday Tarleton State was better than the No. 8 ranked team nationwide in NCAA Division II.
Yeah, the record for the Texans 6-5, but don’t think for a second Tarleton concluded the regular season looking like a barely above .500 football team, because the Texans are much better than that after the second regular season since head coach Todd Whitten returned to Stephenville.
So what went wrong as First Financial Bank presents our First Flash post game thoughts? Not to take away from Texas A&M-Commerce, who has beaten everyone like a drum outside a 47-42 loss to No. 4 Midwestern State and the narrow win over Tarleton Saturday, but the first six minutes was more about what Tarleton did wrong.
The secondary didn’t cover a receiver on a go route because the corner took the bait when the Lions faked a bubble screen. There’s 7-0 and Luis Perez, the nation’s leading passer, was on his way to yet another 300-yard day. The offense goes 3-and-out a second straight time as the start to their day was abysmal, and here comes Perez again. This time it looks like he’s going to run the ball, so a Tarleton safety lets up, allowing a receivier to run uncovered across the back of the end zone and make an easy catch for a 14-0 lead.
So what went right?
After the first six minutes, Tarleton was really good. The defense made stops the rest of the day until the final TAMUC drive, limiting the Lions, who average 41.2 points, to just four field goals over the last nine minutes of the first quarter, all of the second and third periods and the first 11 minutes of the fourth.
And the offense showed life thanks to a spark provided by running back Adam Berryman. Okay, spark is an understatement. A 69-yard touchdown run in the third, cutting it to 23-7, then a 51 yard catch and run to turn 4th and 13 into a TD that trimmed the margin to 26-21 with still more than five minutes left? That’s more like a personal firework show.
A beautiful aerial over the top of the defense to Jeff Thomas went for a TD in between and the defense earned a three-and out before Berryman’s fourth-down conversion and TD on which Zed Woerner tossed it to him just five yards downfield because of pressure in the backfield, and the junior running back shrugged off one tackler while winning a race to the Tarleton sideline, where he stayed inbounds, turned upfield and sprinted all the way to the end zone.
In the end, it was about a fourth-down play. The Lions made that play and Tarleton didn’t. And tha tis why the Lions are a one loss team, because they make that play, and the Texans are a five-loss club, because they don’t.
Yet. They don’t yet. But Tarleton is right there, very close, and has a chance to continue to improve while preparing for a bowl game on December 2. We’ll find out about that on Monday.
We already found out a lot about the Texans, beginning with their will power and mental toughness to fight back from three scores down against a top 10 team. A week after taking a top five opponent to overtime.
There are some rough edges, but the best diamonds, they say, are found in the rough.