Photos by RUSSELL HUFFMAN
November 2, 2019
STEPHENVILLE – It was senior day at Memorial Stadium and the seniors put on quite the show for the Tarleton faithful as the No. 4 Texans blew out rival Midwestern State 66-7 in the regular season home finale.
The win also secured Tarleton a share of the Lone Star Conference Championship for the second straight season. The Texans can win the title outright in two weeks with a win at Western New Mexico in Silver City on Nov. 16.
It was a record-setting afternoon for Tarleton’s Zimari Manning, who hauled in five passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns to move into first-place all-time in Tarleton history for receiving touchdowns – passing Le’Nard Meyers (27) with 29 in his two-year career.
Manning wasn’t the only senior to shine on their special day at Memorial Stadium.
Daniel McCants rushed for over 200 yards for the second consecutive week. The senior from Killeen ran for 202 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns, including a long run of 50 yards. McCants, who recently joined Tarleton’s soon-to-be-Hall of Famer Derrick Ross as the only two Texans in program history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, also etched his name alongside Ross as the only two backs in program history to rush for 200 yards in back-to-back weeks.
The game started with Midwestern winning the coin toss but turning it over on an interception by Ryan Payne. Tarleton wasted no time in capitalizing as senior Ben Holmes found J.F. Thomas on the first offensive play from scrimmage with a 30-yard touchdown strike. Thomas finished with two receptions and 40 yards while Holmes threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns on 14-24 passing.
After the teams traded fumbles on the next two possessions and Midwestern missed the first of three field goal attempts on the day, Tarleton found the end zone again in the first when McCants broke loose for a 36-yard score and a 14-0 Texan lead. Manning tacked on his first of three touchdowns later in the quarter to put Tarleton up three touchdowns after the first quarter.
Manning’s record-breaking touchdown reception came less than two minutes into the second quarter when Holmes found him from 20 yards out for a 28-0 Texan lead. After two more missed field goals from MSU, Tarleton tacked on one of their own for a 31-0 lead when Christian Hernandez connected from 24 yards out.
The Mustangs took the next possession and coughed it up again when Prince Robinson poked it loose and Ryan Turner scooped it up. The fumble set up Manning’s third touchdown of the afternoon when Holmes hit him from 36 yards out for a 38-0 lead.
Just before half, Prince Robinson stepped into the senior limelight as the corner from Houston picked off his eighth career interception and ran it back for a touchdown and a 45-0 halftime lead for the Texans.
Robinson wasn’t quite done.
After McCants opened the scoring with a 29-yard run to start the new half, Robinson struck again on Midwestern’s first possession of the new half – treating it just like their last one of the first half – picking it off and running it back for his second touchdown of the game. Dating back to last season, Robinson has now scored four touchdowns in the final regular season home games in each of the last two seasons – a punt return and kickoff return touchdown last season against Western New Mexico and two interception return scores Saturday.
Tarleton’s run game took over the rest of the third quarter and senior Malik Robinson set up the final touchdown of the afternoon with his first career interception on the opening drive of the fourth quarter. Bowie Franks scored from 20 yards out on the ensuing Tarleton possession.
Tarleton put up 558 total yards of offense in three fewer plays (70) than the Mustangs (73), who had 265 total yards.
The Texan defense was electric – forcing a season-high six turnovers which led to 35 points.
Ronnell Wilson and Tavaris Owens had seven tackles each to lead the team while Jai Edwards and Jordan Phillips each had six. Tyler Turner and Payne recovered fumbles while Payne, Malik and Prince Robinson (2) had interceptions.
Tarleton recognized 21 seniors in a pregame ceremony – Justice Anyanwu, Brant Bailey, DeShun Qualls, Ben Holmes, Zimari Manning, Daniel McCants, ChadWick Thibodeaux, Cam Lewis, Prince Robinson, Ed Hayes, Cody Hayes, Cody Mitchell, Malik Robinson, Jai Edwards. BJ Jefferson, Tavaris Owens, Noah Perez, Chris Gibbens, Chase Livesay, Junior Pierre, and Jordan Phillips.
Tarleton will take a one-game hiatus from conference play when the Texans head to Liberty, Missouri next weekend to play William Jewell at 2 p.m.