ODESSA – Saturday night wasn’t the night to be a school record at Tarleton State University because the Texans had them in their sights.
On the night that Zimari Manning used a mammoth first quarter to shatter a 25-year old receiving record, head coach Todd Whitten took down the all-time wins record by a head coach that has stood tall since 1935 as Whitten surpassed W.J. Wisdom for the most wins in program history with a 49-7 thumping of UT Permian Basin in Odessa.
With the win, Whitten won his 72nd game as the head coach of the Texans. His 97 wins as a collegiate head coach have him in the top 25 among active head coaches in NCAA Division II.
“I’m very thankful to be at Tarleton and I’m very thankful to Coach (Lonn) Reisman for allowing me to be the football coach here,” said Whitten. “We have really good players and really good coaches. I just happen to be the head coach. I’m honored and really proud of that because this is one of the greatest accomplishments of my career.”
It didn’t take long for the offense to get rolling as Zimari Manning’s record-breaking night began on the third play of the game with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Ben Holmes for a 7-0 lead.
The senior wide receiver from Long Beach, California was far from finished.
He scored the second and third touchdowns of the game – all in the opening quarter – by breaking off catches of 77 yards and 74 yards, respectively. Manning had three catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter. He would go on to finish with seven catches for 257 yards and three scores. He surpassed Colin Yocom’s mark of 234 yards from Sept. 24, 1994, and became the first Texan with 200 yards in a game since Jeken Frye in 2010.
Not to be outdone, running back Khalil Banks also found the end zone three times – the first of which came in the second quarter from 10 yards out to extend the lead to 28-0. UT Permian Basin would get on the board with its only score of the game just before halftime to send things into the break with Tarleton on top 28-7.
In the second half, it was Prince Robinson on full display.
The senior set up Tarleton with a 35-yard punt return before Banks tacked on his second touchdown of the game from a yard out to make it 35-7.
Robinson struck again on the defensive side by interception QB Clayton Roberts in the end zone which gave the ball back to the Texan offense. Tarleton marched down the field on 10 plays in 3:09 with Banks capping off the hat trick with an eight-yard run to put Tarleton up 42-7.
Robinson had the final strike in the fourth quarter with an interception return for a touchdown from 12 yards out to bring the game to its final score at 49-7. Christian Hernandez was a perfect 7-7 on point after attempts for the game.
Ben Holmes led the offense as the senior quarterback went 14-21 passing for 344 yards and three touchdowns. Manning was his primary target with the record-setting 257 yards on seven catches and all three scores.
While Banks handled the touchdowns on 16 carries for 94 yards, Daniel McCants racked up 135 yards on the ground to lead the rushing attack.
Defensively, B.J. Jefferson led the team in tackles for the third straight week with nine. Tarleton picked off three passes. Benjie Franklin recorded an interception for the second straight week while Robinson had two. It’s Robinson’s first interceptions of the season and he moves into a four-way tie for the third-most picks in program history – tying Lance Trinque, Kevin Pope and Dashaun Phillips (7). With one more interception, Robinson will tie Walter Moeglin and Craig Wright for the most in program history (8).
Tarleton improved to 4-0 on the season and will return home next weekend to face the only other remaining undefeated team in the Lone Star Conference, Angelo State. The Texans and Rams will kick off at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Stephenville.