ABILENE — The 2023 Texan Football season ended in the only fitting way possible – with a win.
The Texans won their fourth straight to end the season and cemented their best NCAA Division I season at 8-3 by scoring 17 straight points in the fourth quarter to knock off rival Abilene Christian on the road 31-30 on Saturday afternoon at Wildcat Stadium.
The Texans (8-3, 4-2 UAC) beat ACU (5-5, 3-3 UAC) for the first time since 2013, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Tarleton State now finishes with the third best winning percentage among all reclassifying schools since 2004 at .610, only short of North Dakota State (.750, 2005-08) and Central Arkansas (.630, 2006-09). The Texans also became just the fourth reclassifying team to post eight or more wins in a season (North Dakota State twice in 2006-07, Central Arkansas twice in 2006 and 2008, North Dakota in 2011).
With one week to go for everybody else, the Texans are in third in the United Athletic Conference, with a chance to move into second by season’s end. Austin Peay won the UAC at 5-0, and Central Arkansas is second at 4-1. If the Bears lose to Austin Peay, Tarleton State owns the tiebreaker, and the Texans could finish second, as long as Eastern Kentucky loses to Stephen F. Austin.
Kavyon Britten capped off an incredible first year at Tarleton State with a hat trick and the go-ahead score, finishing with three touchdowns and 176 yards on 22 carries, averaging 8.0 yards per carry. That boosted Britten to 1,150 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns, both marks the most at Tarleton State in several years. His 16 rushing touchdowns are the most since Xavier Turner had 22 in 2018, while his rushing yards mark the most since Daniel McCants had 1,457 in 2019.
The Texans had to mount a major comeback in the fourth quarter to take this one. On the first play of the final frame, ACU scored a 2-yard rushing touchdown to go up 30-14. The Texans then scored on three straight drives to take the lead. First, Guzman finished a 75-yard drive off with a 29-yard field goal. Then the Texan defense forced a three-and-out, and the Texan offense immediately capitalized, with Victor Gabalis throwing a 67-yard pass to Benjamin Omayebu, who took it all the way to the 1-yard line. Britten cashed in from there to make it a 30-24 deficit.
On ACU’s next possession, the Texan defense stepped up again. Josh Griffis sacked ACU QB Maverick McIvor at the 24-yard line, and Robert Rios jumped on the ball to put Tarleton State in prime position to take the lead. The Texans only needed one play to do so, Britten again, who scampered around the right side from 17 yards out.
For a third straight time, Tarleton State shut down ACU immediately, another three-and-out to get the ball back with 5:44 left. The Texans bled the rest of the clock out by gaining five first downs, winning the game by a point.
Omayebu had 10 catches for a season-high 163 yards, accounting for most of Gabalis’ attack, who completed 15-of-26 for 258 yards. Gabalis threw a pair of picks, but added an 18-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter.
The Texans outgained the Wildcats 498-346, averaging 7.9 yards per play to ACU’s 5.2.
Britten opened the game with a touchdown just over 100 seconds in, with Tarleton marching down 65 yards and the Texan running back scoring from a yard out. ACU answered on their first offensive possession, with Jordan Vaughan rushing in a three-yard score.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Gabalis shifted his way into a big opening and showed off the wheels, scoring his 18-yard rushing touchdown. That marked back-to-back games with a rushing touchdown for the Texan quarterback.
ACU proceeded to score 23 unanswered, winning the second quarter 16-0 and scoring a touchdown to open the fourth. ACU missed an extra point with a few minutes to play in the second quarter, which proved to be a costly missed.
Tarleton State’s season is now concluded. The Texans will gear up for their 2024 campaign, which will be their first year they can compete for the playoffs and national championships.