ST. GEORGE, Utah – After a morning snow flurry and a chilly night in St. George, Tarleton served up a full dish of revenge – which is said to be best served cold.
In the second meeting of the season between future WAC rivals Tarleton and Dixie State, the Texans found redemption from their early season aberration by thrashing Dixie State in their home opener 37-15 at Greater Zion Stadium.
“We played really well on offense and took care of the football,” said head coach Todd Whitten. “We didn’t have any turnovers until very late in the game. I thought our defense was absolutely outstanding. Dixie State has one of the top two or three pass offenses in the country and our defense shut them down. A lot of credit to Coach (Marcus) Patton, the defensive staff and our players. We still need to finish better on offense, but we had over 500 yards and 37 points so all in all I couldn’t be more pleased with our football program.”
Tarleton got the scoring started on their second offensive drive of the game as the Texans went 70 yards over five plays on three big passing plays. QB Steven Duncan connected with J.F. Thomas for a 32-yard pitch and catch on 3-8 from the Tarleton 32. On the next play, Duncan found Tariq Bitson for a 20-yard strike to move the chains before Dray Roberson capped off the drive with a drag route that culminated in a 21-yard touchdown catch and run.
After a three-and-out forced by the Texan defense, Tarleton wasted no time in extended the lead out to two scores.
Two Ryheem Skinner runs for 18 yards and a Gabe Douglas 19-yard reception set up the Texans from 26 yards out. Duncan lobbed a jump ball for Bitson in the end zone and the newest Texan receiver won the battle up top to give the Texans a 14-0 lead with 6:08 left in the opening quarter.
On their first possession of the second quarter, Tarleton ran 13 plays and ate over five minutes off the clock before Adrian Guzman boomed a 45-yard field goal to extend the Tarleton lead out to 17-0 in the opening half.
Dixie State had the final possession of the opening half, but only managed 29 yards on six plays in the final 1:29 as the Texan defense stood their ground to keep the Trailblazers off the board heading into the break. At halftime, Tarleton held the Trailblazers to just 157 total yards, including a mere 33 through the air.
Meanwhile, the Texan offense accounted for a smooth 299 yards of total offense with 230 coming through the air. Bitson led all receivers with six catches for 120 yards and a score in the opening two quarters.
The second half proved more of the same as the Texans kept their foot on the gas.
The Duncan to Bitson show continued with a big 38 yard pass down the sideline set up an acrobatic eight-yard touchdown catch by Bitson to extend the lead out to 24-0.
After the Trailblazers put together a 14-play drive that ended in a 45-yard kick, Tarleton answered with three of their own behind a 33-yard field goal from Guzman. The Texan defense forced a three-and-out on the next Dixie State possession and the offense drained out the remaining clock in the quarter before Duncan found Marvin Landy seven plays into the fourth quarter for a six-yard touchdown to lead 34-3.
Tarleton added the third field goal of the night from Guzman in the fourth to finish off the scoring while Dixie State added a pair of touchdowns that didn’t have a single defender of the purple and white shaking in their cleats.
The Texans dominated every aspect of the contest.
Tarleton racked up 514 total yards of offense, led by a 23-33 passing effort from Duncan. The Texan signal caller completed 70 percent of his passes for a career-high 347 yards and four touchdowns. Bitson was the primary beneficiary with a career-high 202 yards receiving on 12 catches with two scores.
Bitson became just the second Texan since 2010 with 200 yards receiving in a game, joining Zimari Manning (257 at UT Permian Basin in 2019). Bitson and Manning were both All-Americans in 2019.
Skinner led the rushing attack with 74 yards on 22 carries.
Defensively, the Texans imposed their will on the Trailblazers.
D.J. Harris led the way with 12 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss while Ronnell Wilson added eight more to his career total, moving him past Ranardrick Phillips and Tony Tuck to No. 9 on Tarleton’s all-time tackle list.
The Texans held Dixie State to a mere 364 yards of total offense on the night, including just 226 over the first three quarters of the game.
Tarleton will return home next weekend to host longtime rival Midwestern State at 6 p.m. in the annual homecoming game.