Tarleton Sets Attendance Record, Rewards Fans with Exhilarating Homecoming Win Over Rival Midwestern State

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STEPHENVILLE – Fans couldn’t have asked for a more exciting Tarleton homecoming football game. Turns out, the most fans in school history got to watch it live.

Tarleton State University set a new school attendance record, hosting 16,216 fans inside Memorial Stadium for the Texans’ 17-14 win over rival Midwestern State in their homecoming game on Saturday.

Texans’ tight end Max Maxfield caught both of Tarleton’s touchdowns from quarterback Steven Duncan, and defensive back Devin Hafford added two interceptions to his NCAA Division I leading takeaway numbers, including the game-sealer with three seconds remaining to put Memorial Stadium in a frenzy. The Texans improved to 4-3 (1-1 WAC) with the win over No. 19 NCAA Division II ranked Midwestern State, who fell to 5-2 (4-0 LSC).

“Getting a win on homecoming is one of the cornerstones of the program every year,” head coach Todd Whitten said. “Winning the thing is one of your goals. We’re very thankful to get out of here with a win. We beat a good football team. In fact, I think they’re going to be the Lone Star Conference champs. They’re much improved from a year ago, so hats off to Midwestern.”

The Texans saw 16,216 fans roll through the turnstiles on Saturday, which was mission accomplished for Tarleton, who dubbed this game the 15K Initiative. The school’s goal was to host 15,000 fans.

The record crowd saw a defensive battle to open the contest, with no score in the first quarter. With 9:41 remaining in the second, the Texans put together a 67-yard scoring drive, with the chunk play coming on a Duncan 47-yard pass to wide receiver Gabe Douglas. Two plays later, Maxfield caught his first career touchdown, which also marked his second career reception, on a 19-yard strike to put Tarleton up 7-0. To close the first half, it was the Mustangs who put together an impressive scoring drive, bleeding the last four minutes off of the clock and scoring with just four seconds remaining to make it 7-7. Quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole passed to running back Jalen March for an 8-yard TD.

The third quarter was much like the first quarter, no score with impressive defensive play. Hafford earned his first interception in the third quarter, his seventh takeaway of the year.

The Texans began the final frame with a 5-yard Duncan to Maxfield touchdown to make it 14-7. Tarleton forced a three-and-out, and scored again on the next drive, this time an Adrian Guzman 28-yard field goal to make it 17-7 with 4:37 left. Midwestern didn’t give up, driving 75 yards to make it a game at the end, scoring on 4th-and-Goal from the 5-yard line, a March rushing touchdown. The Mustangs attempted an onside kick, which Tarleton recovered, but the Texans were unable to bleed the clock entirely and had to punt. Jake Walrath gave the Mustangs nothing to work with, however, punting it 45 yards to MSU’s 1-yard line. Hafford picked off Sterling-Cole for his eighth takeaway to seal the Tarleton victory with three seconds remaining.

Maxfield’s two touchdowns marked the first scores by a Tarleton tight end this season. He finished with three receptions for 29 yards. Duncan threw for 146 yards and the pair of TDs on 15-of-23 passing. Jayyy McDonald led the Tarleton rushing attack with 65 yards on 11 carries, averaging 5.9 yards per rush. Douglas made his return by leading the team in receiving with four catches for 68 yards.

Defensively, Ronnell Wilson recorded 12 tackles to lead Tarleton. With his ninth tackle of the night in the second quarter, he surpassed Robert Ivey (339 tackles, 1985-88) for second on Tarleton’s all-time tackles leaderboard. Wilson now has 343 career tackles. Tally Neal (1975-78) is first in Tarleton history at 613.

Hafford had eight tackles to go with his pair of interceptions. He has six interceptions and two fumble recoveries on the year. His six interceptions puts him in a tie for the sixth-most interceptions by a Texan in a single-season in school history with Michael Dube (1990). He’s just two shy of matching the school record.

Walrath had the Mustangs starting with poor field position all night. The punter averaged 44.6 yards on his boots, pinning the Mustangs inside the 20-yard line twice. He also had a 65-yard punt, a season-long kick.

MSU’s Sterling-Cole completed 20-of-40 throws for 169 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. March had two touchdowns, as he rushed for 85 yards and score, and added three receptions for 26 yards and a TD. Kylan Harrison led MSU in receiving with five catches for 78 yards. Justin Guillory had nine tackles, including 1.5 for a loss. Malik Sonnier forced a fumble to go with his eight tackles. Rigoberto Carrillo had a fumble recovery to go with seven tackles.

The Texans have won five straight homecoming games and are above .500 for the first time this season on the heels of their first winning streak this year. They improved to 24-12-1 all-time against Midwestern, their second-most common opponent all-time, including a 14-4 mark in Stephenville. It’s Tarleton’s fourth straight win over MSU, the second-longest winning streak by either team in the series.

Tarleton now has the ultimate test coming up, a date with the defending national champion Sam Houston Bearkats at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 30, at 6 p.m. CT. The Bearkats are 6-0 this season. It will be Tarleton’s “Pink Out Game,” in which the team is partnering with Pink Warrior Angels to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer patients and their families. There will be 1,000 free Pink Out T-Shirts at the game, courtesy of Student Affairs.

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