STEPHENVILLE – The result of Tarleton Football’s Spring Game means almost nothing in the grand scheme of things surrounding the purpose of the event, but how Saturday’s game played out, one couldn’t help being encapsulated by what transpired in the final minutes.
After Tarleton’s White Team, their defensive unit, dominated the Purple Team, the Texan offense, for three full quarters, it all changed in the fourth. The Purple Team used chunk play after chunk play and scored two late touchdowns, including a 36-yard TD from Brody Davis to Tate Abel with one second left on the clock that gave the Purple Team a one-point win, 57-56.
Saturday’s Spring Game at Memorial Stadium marked the second straight year the Texans have hosted such an event, and it was once again a success, with 4,557 fans on hand to take part in the fun.
Tarleton treated the day like a traditional gameday, opening Texan Alley in the morning, marching on Rudder Way for Pointe du Hoc, and scheduling as much game entertainment as possible. Like last year, Tarleton utilized a unique scoring system in a “Purple vs. White,” “Offense vs. Defense” game, this time with a running 15-minute clock each quarter that followed normal timing rules under two minutes in each frame.
Offense earned a point when achieving a first down, crossing the 50-yard line, producing a 15-yard run, completing a 25-yard pass, and successfully making extra-point attempts after touchdowns. The other traditional scores were still the same, with six points for a touchdown, three points for a field goal, two points for a two-point conversion.
There were 10 ways for the defense to score. A forced punt, tackle for loss, and pass breakup were each worth one point. A three-and-out forced punt, missed field goal, fourth down stop, sack and two-point conversion stop were each worth two points. Takeaways by interception or fumble recovery and blocked kicks were each worth four points.
Although several key players from last year’s team didn’t suit up for Saturday’s game, several contributors to-be gave everyone in attendance a first look at what to expect next season.
Tarleton’s defense was in full control for the first three quarters, having their way in the first half, especially. Linebacker D.J. Harris led with a team-high six tackles. Patrick Jones flew around the field per usual, although it was in a new role, now playing safety instead of outside linebacker. He finished with three tackles.
The Texans opened Saturday’s scoring with a tackle for loss on the second play. The Purple Team immediately faced a fourth down decision, and made the right one, going for it and earning the first down. It was back-and-forth the first part of the opening frame, before the defense took the momentum, leading 13-7 after the first quarter.
Throughout the game, Tarleton’s rush defense was iron clad, forcing the Purple Team to get it done through the air. Tarleton played two quarterbacks in the first half, Victor Gabalis and Marco Siderman. Gabalis threw for 81 yards, rushing for 10.
The Utah Tech transfer made his first Texan highlight on a great ball to Keylan Johnson for 37 yards.
It was all defense the rest of the half, putting the White Team ahead 30-10 at the break.
Greg Eggleston Jr. made his return from a season-ending injury with a hit-stick pass breakup.
The pressure also got to Tarleton’s QB’s early and often, with Devin Sterling making his return from injury as well with a sack, aided by Robert Rios. Sterling finished with a sack and four tackles.
Tayvis Coleman provided the Texans’ first takeaway of the game, picking off Siderman.
In the second half, Daniel Greek introduced himself to the Stephenville crowd with a thread-the-needle type of pass to Dejuan Miller, who took it 70 yards to the one-yard line.
Greek finished the drive with Tarleton’s first touchdown on a back-shoulder throw to new wide receiver Javian Bellamy, who tallied four receptions, 19 yards and a TD on the day. Greek ended up completing 8-of-10 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown, adding eight yards on a rush.
Still, the defense was still well in front, leading 45-22 after three quarters.
Running back Kristian Dalton got the Purple Team’s strong fourth quarter started with a five-yard touchdown run up the middle.
Tarleton defensive back Jaden Fisher responded with an interception off of Davis to seemingly put the Spring Game to bed, but Tarleton’s QB-turned-TE-turned-QB had something to say about it.
Davis quickly tossed a 51-yard bomb to Marsean Fisher, former Texan defender and now wide receiver. With three minutes left, the score was suddenly close, 51-45 in favor of the White Team.
On the final drive, it was back-to-back big-time throws and back-to-back big-time catches that gave the Purple Team the win. First, wide receiver Zion Dove sprawled out for an impressive 30-yard catch.
Down 56-48, Davis found an open Abel from 36 yards away in the middle of the field for the game-winning touchdown. It was an eight-point play, one point for a first down, one point for a 25-yard completion, and six points for the TD. Adrian Guzman came on and booted the PAT through to make it 57-56 and avoid back-to-back years of there being a tie.
Davis finished at a 6-of-9 clip for 129 yards, two touchdowns, a two-point conversion, an interception, and a rush for 10 yards. Abel had two catches for 46 yards and a score.
Defensively, Taren Farmer and Amadeu Vital were credited with sacks, and Tyrone Wilson earned four tackles.
The Spring Game was quite the kickoff to Tarleton’s annual Founder’s Week, which is a celebration of the university’s founder, John Tarleton.
Next up for the Texans is fall camp to prepare for the 2023 season. Camp will likely begin early August. Tarleton opens their 2023 campaign at McNeese on Sept. 2 in Lake Charles, Louisiana.