Duncan Wows at Dixie State Again, Tarleton Dominates to Get Back to .500

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ST. GEORGE, Utah – Coming off a tough road loss and finding themselves on the road once again, the start for Tarleton at Dixie State was just what the doctor ordered. Steven Duncan threw for three touchdowns and 275 yards in the first half as the Texans exploded for a 31-13 halftime lead, en route to a 41-20 win over the Trailblazers in St. George, Utah, on Saturday night.

The Texans (3-3, 1-1 WAC) improved back to .500 on the year in both their overall and WAC records. The Trailblazers remain winless at 0-6 overall, losing their first WAC game of the year.

Dixie State got the ball to start this WAC matchup at Greater Zion Stadium and had some early success, driving 49 yards for a 43-yard field goal to go up 3-0.  The Texans responded quickly, driving 75 yards on just four plays all through the air, capped off by a Duncan to J.F. Thomas 30-yard strike.

On Tarleton’s next drive, the Texans went 80 yards for another touchdown, this one finished off by Daniel Wright Jr. on a 32-yard catch and run from Duncan to put the purple and white up 14-3.

The Trailblazers stopped the bleeding for a minute with a touchdown response of their own, a 65-yard drive that Drew Kannely-Robles scored on with a seven-yard rush.

Tarleton outscored the Trailblazers 17-3 in the second quarter, with scores by Tariq Bitson (13 yards from Duncan) and Ryheem Skinner, a three-yard rush.

The third quarter yielded nothing on the scoreboard. Tarleton kicker Adrian Guzman began the final frame with his second field goal make, a 37-yarder, to put the Texans up 34-13. Kannely-Robles recorded his second touchdown rush of the night with a two-yard score midway through the quarter to give a Trailblazers a small hope of a comeback. But that didn’t last, with Jayy McDonald bulldozing his way in from two yards out to put an exclamation point on the night for the Texans.

Duncan finished with 299 yards on 21-of-30 passing and three touchdowns. His 299 passing yards marks a season-high, and it’s his second multi-passing touchdown game of the year. In two games at Dixie State over the last two seasons, Duncan has thrown for a combined 646 yards and seven touchdowns. Tarleton won both games by a combined 43 points.

Thomas had his best game of the season with six catches for 169 yards and a touchdown. It’s his first 100-yard game in two years, his first since Oct. 12, 2019, at Eastern New Mexico.

Bitson added another touchdown, his fourth of the season, totaling five catches and 31 yards. McDonald had his third rushing touchdown, leading the Texans on the ground with 105 yards on 14 carries (7.5 yards per rush). It’s the most rushing yards in a Texan uniform for McDonald, his first above the century mark. Skinner had 43 yards on nine carries, earning his second touchdown of the season.

The Tarleton defense had three turnovers on the night, with interceptions by Devin Hafford and Benjie Franklin, plus a fumble recovery by Ronnell Wilson. Hafford, now with six takeaways, entered the night with the tied-most takeaways in the FCS and just one short of the tied-most takeaways across NCAA Division I football. He has four interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 2021. Franklin’s interception was his first of the season and his first since Feb. 21, 2021, against New Mexico State. Wilson had a fumble recovery, his first since he recovered one against Dixie State last season. ChadWick Thibodeaux led the team with eight total tackles. Chris Radford had his first sack since 2018, plus a forced fumble.

The Texans now turn their attention to homecoming, set for Saturday against Midwestern State at 6 p.m. CT.  Tarleton is looking to pack Memorial Stadium and set a new WAC FCS attendance record with its 15K Initiative, aimed at getting 15,000 strong in the gates. There is a postgame fireworks show scheduled, plus the school will be giving away 2,000 rally towels and hats to students, courtesy of student affairs.

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