BY RUSSELL HUFFMAN
Ben Holmes tossed a pair of first-half bombs to Zimari Manning and Tarleton State jumped out to a 23-6 first-half lead against Delta State at Memorial Stadium as the Texans opened their 25th season at the NCAA level with a 44-13 win Thursday night.
Coach Todd Whitten has been playing his cards close to his vest since the Texans’ bowl game loss last year in a season that started out strong before going off the rails. Since that time the Texans have operating in a manner that would make the secret service proud as the team simply dropped off the radar.
The Texans’ annual spring Purple and White game wasn’t publicly announced and the team’s depth chart was a mystery worthy of a Dateline episode. A week into practice this season Whitten hadn’t committed to a starting quarterback and insisted the position was up for grabs in a battle between Holmes and Derek Kaiser.
Thursday it was Holmes that settled under center and three plays into the contest had the Texans on the scoreboard when he hooked up with Manning for a 70-yard touchdown. The duo repeated the performance in the second quarter on another third-down play that covered 65 yards for a second score.
As Tarleton was putting up touchdowns Delta State managed field goals of 24 and 39 yards by Taylor Crabtree. The Texans’ placekicker Joanly Martinez also got in on the kicking action with a 36-yard boot before defensive back Prince Robinson’s 36-yard pick six to give Tarleton a 23-6 edge at the half.
The Texans turned to the ground game in the second half with D’Anthony Hopkins scoring on a two-yard run and Daniel McCants ripping off the contest’s longest run with a 56-yard touchdown.
Tarleton’s defense showed it was capable of dazzling big plays too with Jai Edwards crushing Delta State’s hopes of a touchdown when he picked off a Patrick Shegog pass and returned it 76 yards to push the Texans out front 44-6.
The Texans were rumored to be deep at running back with Xavier Turner returning backed up by Daniel McCants, Adam Berryman, Hopkins and Bowie Franks. Turner struggled gaining only 13 yards on seven carries, but McCants ripped off 145 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown while Hopkins added 67 more on 11 carries.
The Texans were well balanced on offense with Holmes throwing for 196 yards on 8-16 passing with two scores and one interception. The Tarleton ground game accounted for another 252 yards.
If there was a negative for the Texans with was 129 yards in penalties.
“I’m proud of the way these guys played, but we are going to have to cut down on the penalties,” Whitten said. “We have to work on that especially in our kicking game.”
Whitten pointed out that he thought the Texans performed well on both sides of the football, but there is still lots of work to do.
|Sack-Adj Rush Yd(Avg)||84 (2.9)||279 (6.1)|
|Time of Poss||33:09||26:51|
|Turnovers (Def Pts Off)||2 (14)||2 (0)|
|Sacks (Def Yds)||4 (27)||2 (11)|
|TFL (Def Yds)||7 (32)||7 (31)|