NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Junior running back Da’Leon Ward gashed visiting Tarleton State’s defense to the tune of a career-high 149 yards to help the SFA football team pile up 201 yards on the ground, but the ‘Jacks surrendered touchdowns of 48, 63 and 99 yards and the visiting Texans scored a 37-26 win, spoiling the ‘Jacks’ 2019 home opener.
In a non-conference showdown which featured over 1,000 yards of total offense, the Texans – who came in ranked fifth in the NCAA Division II polls – piled up 667 yards of their own to win their second-straight over the ‘Jacks.
• Quick-strike drives were the Texans’ weapon of choice as Tarleton State jumped out to a 7-0 lead just 25 seconds into the tilt. On the game’s second play from scrimmage, Daniel McCants took a handoff 48 yards to the house, giving Tarleton State an early 7-0 lead.
• A more methodical drive by the home team allowed it to even the score. With 3:34 to go in the first quarter, junior Josh McGowen capped a seven-play, 55-yard trip into Texan territory by bowling his way into the endzone. His two-yard touchdown run – the second score of the season from the junior – was made possible by a 23-yard hookup from sophomore quarterback Trae Self to Ward. Self also moved the chains wit a 12-yard strike to Calvin Claterearlier in the drive.
• A misplay on the ensuing kickoff pinned the Texans at their own one yard line, but that didn’t deter them from snatching the momentum away from the ‘Jacks. McCants found a seam up the middle on Tarleton State’s second play of the drive and sprinted 99 yards to paydirt. The longest touchdown run by an opponent in the history of Homer Bryce Stadium put the visitors ahead once again.
• Another seven-play drive at the tail end of the first pulled SFA even again. The ‘Jacks’ 52-yard scoring drive culminated with a 19-yard touchdown strike from Self to senior Lar’Darion Cobb who reeled in his first Lumberjack score by making an over-the-shoulder catch in the corner of the endzone.
• SFA’s first drive of the second quarter ended with the a 36-yard field goal off the foot of Storm Ruiz that handed SFA at 17-14 lead. The ‘Jacks pushed their to six, 20-14, with a 37-yard field goal courtesy of Ruiz with 1:15 remaining in the half but the Texans answered shortly thereafter.
• J.F. Thomas found himself on the receiving end of a 63-yard pass from senior quarterback Ben Holmes with 24 ticks left in the opening frame. That put the Texans ahead by one, 21-20, at the break.
• Ruiz continued his accurate night with a 29-yard field goal on the ‘Jacks opening drive of the deciding half. That field goal put SFA on top 23-21 before the Texans took off on a lengthy drive of their own.
• Over the course of 3:37, Tarleton State chewed up 77 yards on 10 plays and retook the lead for good when Holmes dashed five yards into the endzone. The quarterback’s run put the Texans up 27-23, but again SFA fought back.
• Ruiz split the uprights for the fourth time before the third quarter came to a close. The senior’s 32-yard field goal trimmed Tarleton State’s lead to one, 27-26, but it would also be the final points of the night for the ‘Jacks.
• Three plays on their first full drive of the fourth were all the Texans needed to increase their lead. Holmes hooked up with ZImari Manning for a 36-yard play to put Tarleton State in SFA territory before finding Thomas for the second time. A 37-yard touchdown pass ended with Thomas high-stepping his way into the endzone to put his squad up 34-26.
• The Texans then worked on chewing up the clock. After getting the ball back with 10:49 left, Tarleton State worked 5:09 off of the clock by traveling 48 yards on 11 plays and ended that drive with a 27-yard field goal from Christian Hernandez to go up 37-26.
• SFA got the ball back one more time, but mustered just two yard on their final drive of the game.
KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• Self finished with 213 yards and a touchdown through the air, marking the first time in his SFA career that he notched a passing score.
• Remi Simmons latched onto four balls thrown from Self for a team-high 58 receiving yards.
• Ward’s 149 yard on the ground were the most by an SFA running back since Oct. 15, 2016. That day, Loren Easlyrolled up 169 rushing yards in a Southland Conference setback to Southeastern Louisiana.
• With four field goals, Ruiz reset his career high for field goals in a game. It also marked the first time an SFA kicker split the uprights on four field goals since Nov. 3, 2012, when Jordan Wiggs did so in a Southland Conference home win over Lamar.
• Gavin Roland paced SFA’s defense with a team-high 10 tackles – one of which was for a five-yard loss.
• Holmes finished with 372 yards through the air and a pair of touchdowns for the Texans. Thomas was his favorite target as the receiver reeled in seven catches for 193 yards and both of Tarleton’s receiving touchdowns.
• McCants rushed for another pair of touchdowns, finishing with 179 yards on the ground.
COMING UP NEXT
• SFA embarks on its lengthiest road trip of the 2019 campaign next week as the ‘Jacks head northwest to Cedar City, Utah, for a date with Big Sky Conference adversary Southern Utah. Kickoff at Eccles Coliseum Saturday evening is set for 7:05 p.m.