BY RUSSELL HUFFMAN
A B-52 Stratofortress opened the kickoff festivities at Tarleton’s Memorial Stadium Thursday, but East Central Oklahoma did the bombing as the Tigers upset the Texans 21-14.
Tarleton’s inaugural season at the NCAA D1 level ended on a sour note as the Texans’ offense failed to show up for most of the game and had an uncharacteristic 22 yards in the first quarter. The offense’s main woe was a lack of an effective rushing attack as Tarleton netted only 55 yards on the ground and three rushing first downs.
Things looked different early on and at the same time set the tempo for the Tigers, who would consume field and time of possession to deny the Texans the football.
East Central’s had a long opening drive that stalled inside the Texan’s 5-yard line, and a sophomore defensive back Josh Kemp broke through to block the Tigers’ field goal attempt.
Senior Benjie Franklin scooped up the ball and raced down the far sideline 68-yards to give the Texans the lead, with 8:54 remaining in the first quarter. Christian Hernandez’s PAT made it a 7-0 game.
Tarleton’s first two offensive drives lasted 3:22 and picked up just 27 yards as quarterback Steven Duncan was off the mark and throughout the game overthrew his receivers. Duncan was 16-38-1 and, with Tarleton’s rushing attack stalling, didn’t find his comfort zone.
Duncan did hook up with Tariq Bitson for six passes for 139 yards and a score. Gabe Douglas hauled in three passes for 66 yards.
ECU rallied to tie the score with 2:41 remaining in the first quarter as its offense ground out a 13-play 94-yard drive capped by Miles Davis’ 1-yard run.
The two teams exchanged possessions in the second quarter, with Texans driving 84 yards on 17 plays and losing the ball on downs at the ECU 5-yard line. The Tigers’ drive to the Texans’ 17 ended with a missed field goal.
ECU owned the third quarter, taking just two plays following a Texan fumble to score as Ontario Douglas scored one a 1-yard run and added a 2-yarder after a 14-play drive by the Tigers late in the quarter.
Duncan’s hookup with Bitson with 5:06 remaining in the frame ended the contest’s scoring as the Tigers’ ground game kept ticking the time off the clock and denying Tarleton opportunities.
ECU rushed for 218 yards on 57 attempts as eight different players carried the ball, with Douglas’ 115 yards leading the way.
Despite the loss, the Texans’ first season, the D1 level comes with a 5-3 record.
Ironically, the loss drops the Tarleton football program to one game under the .500 mark. That’s a hole the Texans have worked for 60 years to fill up, and it was ECU that first sent Tarleton below the .500 mark in 1961.
History repeated itself Thursday as East Central topped Tarleton 21-14 upsetting the Texans at Memorial Stadium