Tarleton Sate University, the No. 7-ranked team in NCAA DII, did exactly what Stephen F. Austin first-year coach Colby Carthel knew they could Saturday night, using a big-play offense to ruin the home opener for the Lumberjacks here at Homer Bryce Stadium by the tune of 37-26.
The Texans (1-0) opened their season by using scoring plays of 48, 99 and 63 yards in the first two quarters to claim a 21-20 lead at the break, then held the Lumberjacks to a pair of field goals in the third and fourth quarters as they dropped SFA to 0-2 on the season.
The Lumberjacks will return to action Saturday when they travel to Southern Utah for their final non-conference game of the season at 7:05 p.m. CST.
Tarleton State rolled up 386 yards in the first half, with 209 of those yards coming through the air and 177 more on the ground. The Lumberjacks posted 253 yards by the break, and was held to 161 in the second half, finishing with 414 yards. The Texans rolled up 667 yards in the victory as the two teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of total offense.
SFA junior running back Da’Leon Ward ran for a personal-best 149 yards on 28 carries to highlight the Lumberjacks’ night, while quarterback Trae Self completed 14-of-37 passes for 213 yards and a score. Remi Simmons was the leading receiver for the ’Jacks with four catches for 58 yards.
Tarleton produced some firepower of its own, with running back Daniel McCants finishing as the game’s leading rusher with 179 yards and a pair of scores on 11 runs. Ryheem Skinner added 84 yards on 11 runs. Texans quarterback Ben Holmes completed 23-of-36 passes for 372 yards and two touchdowns against the SFA secondary J.F. Thomas pulled in seven of those throws, tallying 193 and two scores.
It didn’t take Tarleton long to score. On the second play of the game McCants sprinted down the left sideline for a 48-yard TD, completing a 2-play, 75-yard drive.
SFA came back to tie the score, 7-7, when McCowan finished a 55-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run.
After a mistake on the kickoff return and a penalty, the Texans were backed up to their own 1-yard line. But McCants took the handoff and went almost untouched up the middle for a 99-yard TD run, giving Tarleton State a 14-7 lead with 3:20 left in the opening quarter.
SFA drove 52 yards for its next score as Self connected with Lar’Darion Cobb with a 19-yard strike to knot the score at 14-14.
Storm Ruiz added field goals of 36 and 37 yards in the second quarter, but a 63-yard Texans scoring play with 24 seconds left in the half gave TSU a 21-20 lead at the break.
SFA was only able to add field goals from Ruiz of 29 and 32 yards in the second half.