By BRAD KEITH
CORSICANA (December 2, 2017) – Zed Woerner took advantage of the Corsicana Bowl, as one more last chance was all the sixth-year senior needed to set the Tarleton State school record for career passing yards.
But Woerner and the Texans were unable to take advantage of the one last chance to tie or even win the inaugural Division II bowl contest when a bizarre interception deflected of the foot of stretched out intended receiver Cornellius Carrington into the hands of defensive back Omari Cole.
Woerner stopped Cole form scoring on the return, but all that impacted was the final score. UCO kneeled out the clock to hold on in the wild affair in which the Bronchos rushed for 384 yards and had 549 yards of total offense.
Not to be far outdone, Tarleton had 438 yards with 253 of those on 15-31 passing by Woerner to finish his career throwing for 8,243 yards. He surpassed Steve Kelley who passed for 8,205 yards from 1999 to 2001.
Woerner and the Texans were given the last chance because UCO kicker Austin Dodd missed wide to the left on a 30-yard field goal attempt that would have made it a two-possession game.
Instead Tarleton took over at its own 20 with 2:04 left. Woerner scrambled seven yards before Xavier Turner rushed for a first down then moved the Texans to the 36 on a short reception from Woerner. He made it out of bounds with a little more than a minute remaining and with the clock stopped anyway, UCO called timeout.
The next play was the wild interception, where the side judge was in perfect position just underneath the out route to the sideline and even when the defensive back hesitated before taking off with the return, ruled the ball was live after bouncing off Carrington’s foot, not the Tiger Stadium turf.
UCO had broke a tie with a 10-play, 75-yard drive ending in a 13-yard Stallard TD run for the Game-winning points with a little more than 10 minutes to go. Immediately following the game, bowl administrators named Stallard the bowl’s first MVP.
Tarleton answered every challenge throughout the initial three quarters but was unable to respond in the fourth.
The game was back and forth from the onset with UCO running back Brandon White rushing 23 times for 216 yards and quarterbacks Chas Stallard and Chandler Garrett combining for another 171. UCO had its fourth most prolific rushing day in Broncho football history.
Xavier Turner had another big day out of the back field for Tarleton with 123 yards and a TD on 17 carries. Adam Berryman rushed for 45 yards.
The Texans came close to having two 100-yard receivers for the third time. Jeff Thomas cracked the century mark in his final game with 104 yards on five catches. Del’Michael High had less yards – 83 – on the same number of receptions but scored two touchdowns – a 21-yard slant off play-action to get the Texans on the board with a 7-3 lead early in the second, and later in that period when he won a jump ball battle in the end zone. That pulled Tarleton within 17-14 with just 17 seconds left until intermission.
There was a halftime in the middle but after receiving the second half kickoff, the next Tarleton touchdown came just 1 minute and 15 seconds after High’s second TD. This time with was Turner on a 12 yard run to give Tarleton its second lead, 21-17.
They would lead once more when Berryman broke a string of tackles while rushing for a 30-yard TD that made it 28-24 with six minutes and change left in the third.
Stallard went deep to wide open Liliard Curry for a 42-yard Broncho touchdown and 31-28 lead, a little more than three minutes later, and despite a penalty on the ensuing kick return forcing the Texans to start at their own nine, they drove down the field quickly and on the opening play of the fourth period Sergio Sroka was true on a 21-yard attempt for a 31-31 tie.
Basil Jackson was the top tackler with 15 and a sack. Ryan Galyon led UCO with nine total stops.
The Corsicana bowl is the product of executive director Tony Talton working with local camber of commerce and visitors’ bureau representatives, and together used the event to raise funds for the Corsicana and Navarro County area Special Olympics, which provides the enjoyment and experience of sporting events for special needs children.
It was the first bowl appearance in 31 years for the Texans, who ended the year with three straight losses including prior regular-season defeats to playoff teams Midwestern State and Texas A&M-Commerce, which on Saturday eliminated No. 1 Minnesota State-Mankato for the Super Region IV championship and is on to the semifinals next week.