STEPHENVILLE – The Tarleton Texans set the tone on the first offensive play of the game, going 84 yards through the air, and they didn’t let up from there in a comfortable 40-21 win over New Mexico Highlands in Stephenville on Saturday night.
The Texans (2-2, 0-1 WAC) get back to .500 and improve to 2-0 at Memorial Stadium on the season. Tarleton improves to 3-2 against the Cowboys (1-3, 1-2 RMAC) in series history, dating back to 1997. Tarleton has won three straight against New Mexico Highlands, outscoring the opponent 128-35.
Like their first home game against another RMAC foe, the Texans’ rushing attack powered through the defense throughout. Tarleton ran for 278 yards on 42 attempts, averaging 6.6 yards per rush. Two different Texans eclipsed the 100-yard mark, with Daniel Wright Jr. averaging an incredible 9.5 yards per carry on 15 tries, totaling 142 yards and two touchdowns. Ryheem Skinner raced for 127 yards on 16 carries (7.9 yards per rush). Skinner was part of the last Tarleton duo to have multiple 100-plus yards on the ground in a game last season.
To open the contest, quarterback Steven Duncan found wide receiver Tariq Bitson open at the 40-yard line in stride, leading to an 84-yard gain before he was tracked down at the 1-yard line. Wright punched it in on the very next play, with Tarleton going up 7-0 about 45 seconds in. The Cowboys found some success on their first drive, getting to the Tarleton 27-yard line. Defensive back Devin Hafford stuffed a CJ Sims fourth-down attempt to stall a possible early momentum shift.
On the first play of the Texans’ next drive, Wright broke away for a 63-yard gain, getting to the 7-yard line. He got the ball right back and capitalized on it once again, putting the Texans ahead 14-0 just five minutes into the contest with two touchdowns on three carries. The Texans didn’t give the Cowboys a chance to breathe, taking the ball right back on New Mexico Highlands’ first play of the second drive. Greg Eggleston Jr. picked off quarterback Ramone Atkins at midfield. Tarleton put together another nice drive before settling for a field goal, which Adrian Guzman put through the uprights from 34 yards out.
The onslaught in the first quarter wasn’t over. The Texans forced a turnover on downs again on the Cowboys’ next series, and scored yet another touchdown on a 69-yard drive, finished by Duncan on a 1-yard score. Tarleton led 20-0 after the opening frame.
New Mexico Highlands’ Quavon Beckford caught a 21-yard touchdown to begin the second quarter to give the Cowboys’ some life, which Dray Roberson quickly snuffed, returning the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for his own touchdown. Tarleton led 30-14 at the half.
Photos by CHERYL HATTON (Dirty Cleats Photography)
The second half was fairly quiet offensively. Tarleton scored the only points in the third on a Derrel Kelley III six-yard touchdown rush. The Texan defense was firm in the second half, not allowing a score besides an extra point, which came on the heels of a Malik Brown forced fumble and fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.
Duncan had 234 passing yards on a 13-of-21 clip, plus his one-yard touchdown rush. Bitson ended up with four catches and 135 receiving yards, largely thanks to his 84-yard play at the beginning. Eggleston had the big game on defense for Tarleton, earning two interceptions.
Atkins threw for 237 yards on 17-of-44 passing, two touchdowns and two picks. Atkins finished with 105 rushing yards on 21 carries, averaging 5.0 yards per rush. Ronald Jamison caught the other touchdown from Atkins, leading the Cowboys with 67 yards receiving on three catches.
The Texans will head out of state for the first time this season, playing at the Eastern Kentucky Colonels on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.