STEPHENVILLE — Tarleton’s peers have voted and agree with what the Texans have known for a while – there are a lot of stars on the Tarleton football team.
The Western Athletic Conference announced Tuesday its 2022 postseason awards, voted on by the head coaches across the WAC, and 11 Texans were honored and can lay claim they are the best of the best in the conference.
Tarleton had 10 players named to the All-WAC First or Second Teams, the second most of any program in the conference. This was Tarleton’s third most individual conference awards over the past 10 seasons, only behind their Lone Star Conference winning years in 2018 and 2019. On offense, the Texans had six make All-WAC First or Second Team, the second most as well, with three named All-WAC First Team, the tied-most recognitions of any team in the conference.
Besides the 10 placed on the All-WAC First or Second Teams, Tarleton QB Beau Allen earned his own special recognition, one of five major award winners, as he was named the 2022 WAC Newcomer of the Year.
Tarleton had five named All-WAC First Team, three on offense, one on defense and one on special teams. Wide receiver Darius Cooper, and offensive linemen Kendall Dearth and Blake Haynes were All-WAC First Team on offense. Defensive back Donovan Banks was All-WAC First Team on defense. Long snapper Brandon Oldham was All-WAC First Team on special teams.
Tarleton had five named All-WAC Second Team, three on offense and two on defense. Running back Derrel Kelley III, wide receiver Jaden Smith and offensive lineman Layton Ernst were All-WAC Second Team on offense. Linebackers Patrick Jones and Qua’Shawn Washington were All-WAC Second Team on defense.
Allen is the winner of one of five major awards the WAC hands out (Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Special Teams Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Newcomer of the Year). The redshirt freshman had a special season in his first year at Tarleton, completing 193-of-340 (.568) for 2,836 yards, 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He had a QB rating of 142.7, averaging 257.8 passing yards per game. He also rushed it 79 times for 110 yards and a touchdown.
Allen led the WAC in pass touchdowns (23, 16th in FCS), passing yards (2,838, 17th in FCS), plus he had the most 300+ yard games on the season (five). He had the tied-third most 300+ yard games in a single-season in program history, tied with Steve Kelley (2001), only behind Kevin Vickers (seven, 1994) and Cliff Watkins (six, 2003). On Oct. 8 in Tarleton’s 42-40 win at Southern Utah, Allen threw for a career-high 406 passing yards, adding three touchdowns, while leading the team in rushing with 55 yards on 11 attempts. His 406 yards passing are the 11th most in Tarleton Football history and the 12th 400+ yard game in program history. His 406 were also the second most thrown by a WAC QB this year. In the game prior, Tarleton’s 43-28 win at North Alabama, Allen earned WAC Offensive Player of the Week honors after throwing for 316 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, while adding 32 yards on seven carries. His four touchdown passes were tied for the third-most TD passes by a WAC QB this season, and his 86-yard pass to Jaden Smith during the game was the longest pass in the conference this year.
On the All-WAC First Team offense are Cooper, Dearth and Haynes. Cooper earned his first career conference postseason award after reaching the coveted 1,000-yard milestone in the final game, finishing with 54 receptions for 1,063 yards and nine touchdowns. Across the WAC, he had the third most receiving yards (ninth in FCS), the third most receiving touchdowns (tied-21st in FCS), and the fourth most receptions. He also had five 100+ yard games, the tied-second most in the conference. His 1,063 receiving yards are the most by a Texan since 2019.
Dearth and Haynes, who were both Preseason All-WAC selections, each took home their second career postseason career honors, although it’s the first time each has been First Team. Dearth, a senior, ends his long Texan career with First Team accolades, adding to his 2019 All-LSC Second Team recognition. Haynes makes it back-to-back years for postseason conference recognition following All-WAC Second Team honors last season. Both helped the offense gain 436.8 yards per game, Tarleton’s best average since 2019, the most in the WAC this season, 21st most across the FCS.
One of Tarleton’s senior leaders, Banks, earns his first conference postseason award after a career year, earning a team-leading four interceptions (two interceptions for touchdowns), to go with a forced fumble, 47 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, a sack and four pass breakups. His four interceptions were the tied-most in the WAC this year (tied-13th in FCS), while his two pick-sixes were the tied-most nationally and the most on their own in the conference. He had a two-interception game against Abilene Christian on Nov. 5, his second career multi-interception game. On Oct. 10, Banks was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Week after his vital 41-yard interception return for a touchdown in Tarleton’s win at Southern Utah.
Oldham was named the conference’s top long snapper in his first year with Tarleton. He played in all 11 games with no errant snaps the entire season.
On the All-WAC Second Team offense were Kelley, Smith and Ernst. Kelley had a breakout season after coming on as the starting RB late, reaching the 1,000-yard milestone at 155 carries for 1,004 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 91.3 yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry. He also had 15 catches for 120 yards. Kelley, a sophomore, saved his best for last, racing for 239 yards on 24 carries (10.0 yards per rush) and two touchdowns in the season finale against Houston Christian. His 239 yards are the fifth most rushing yards in a single-game in program history, just 30 short of the all-time mark. He ran for 100+ yards five times this season, including four times over the last five games. Kelley had a three-game streak of rushing for 100+ yards, the longest such stretch by a Texan since Daniel McCants had three straight towards the end of the 2019 season. Across the WAC, he had the tied-most rushing touchdowns and the second most rushing yards (25th in FCS). He also had the most yards per rush at 6.5, the 17th best average in the country.
Smith had an incredible start to the year and remained one of the top receivers in the WAC throughout in his first year at Tarleton. He finished with 48 receptions for 822 yards and 10 touchdowns. Across the conference, he had the second most receiving TD’s (tied-14th in FCS), the fourth most receiving yards and the fifth most receptions. His 10 receiving touchdowns are the most by a Texan since 2019 and tied-sixth most in a single-season in program history. In his first game of the year, Smith caught three touchdowns, hauling in 11 receptions for 95 yards. His first TD grab was an OBJ-like skying one-hander, No. 4 on SportsCenter’s Top-10 Plays countdown. On Sept. 24 at North Alabama, he had the longest play in the WAC on the year, an 86-yard touchdown catch.
Ernst, a sophomore, takes his first postseason conference award. He makes it three offensive linemen on the team to earn WAC postseason recognition after starting all 11 games, part of Tarleton’s best total yardage average offense since 2019.
On the All-WAC Second Team defense were Jones and Washington, as the pair of Tarleton linebackers had incredible years in their own right. Jones did a bit of everything, finishing with two interceptions, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble, 65 total tackles (30 solo), 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two pass breakups and four quarterback hurries. He led his team in sacks, had the tied-second most tackles for loss and the third most total tackles. At Southern Utah on Oct. 8, Jones won the game for the Texans with an interception to preserve Tarleton’s 42-40 win. Against Southwest Baptist on Oct. 22, he had a season-high 11 tackles, to go with a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Washington played in nine games, leading Tarleton in tackles (75, 37 solo) and tackles for loss (13.5), while adding 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries and a pass breakup. He led the WAC in average tackles per loss (1.5, tied-11th in FCS) and tackles per game (8.2). He began the year with four straight double-digit tackle games, his best performance coming in the season-opener vs. Mississippi Valley State, where he compiled a season-high 12 tackles, adding a half-sack and 2.5 tackles for loss total.
The 11 total players honored is a cap on another successful season for Tarleton, who has started their reclassification period with three straight winning seasons. They are just the fourth program since 2004 to start that period with three straight winning seasons, joining habitual national champion North Dakota State, playoff regulars South Dakota State, and oft-successful Central Arkansas.