As of three weeks ago, Jake Fenske had never started at quarterback in his college career.
That was hard to believe Saturday night when the fifth-year senior torched the nation's seventh best pass defense to lead the Texans (6-5, 5-3) to their third straight victory to conclude the regular season.
Fenske launched touchdown bombs covering 64 yards to Clifton Rhodes, III, 53 yards to Jeken Frye and 35 yards to Arthur Buckingham on his way to 23-of-39 for 434 yards in the 54-37 victory over Angelo State (5-6, 4-4) on Military Appreciation Night at Tarleton Memorial Stadium. The Texans secured their 12th winning season in 13 years.
Fenske passed for the third most yards in Tarleton single-game history, while Frye hauled in 180 yards - the third highest single-game total for the Texans - on seven catches.
The Texans are tied with Texas A&M-Kingsville for third in the Lone Star Conference. The league title is shared by Midwestern State and West Texas A&M, who both appear playoff bound. A&M-Kingsville and Tarleton are awaiting possible bowl-game invitations.
Freshman Blake Barnes continued his stellar campaign with four field goals, three of them from longer than 40 yards with two of those against the wind. He hit a 24-yard chip shot to begin the scoring on Tarleton's opening possession, and banged home a 40 yarder against a 24 mile per hour wind to put the Texans up 20-9 at the first half buzzer. He stretched then hit 41 and 47 yarders in the third.
Barnes finished his first regular season 18-20 on field goal attempts and a perfect 38-38 kicking PATs.
Tarleton rolled up a season-best 580 yards. The Texans rushed for 146 - 98 by true freshman Zach Henshaw, who scored on a one-yard run in the second quarter. Henshaw also gained 69 yards on five receptions, while Vaughn Smith rushed for 52 yards and caught four passes for 45.
Charles Moore had seven tackles and recovered a fumble when Angelo State was inside the Tarleton 10 in the third quarter. Devin Figures also made seven stops and intercepted a pass in the end zone to end a first-half ASU threat. Rufus Johnson had five tackles and a sack, his 10th of the year.
Kyle Washington was 27-45 passing for 245 yards and three scores for the Rams. He hit Excellence Osbourne eight times for 90 yards and two scores, and connected with Joey Knights eight times for 84 yards and a TD. Donovan Roberts rushed for 83 yards and Washington added 65 for ASU, which had 384 yards of total offense.
It was the third straight win for Tarleton, which improved to 12-4 over their last 16 games including five straight wins to finish last fall. Tarleton was 4-13 in its first 17 games under head coach Cary Fowler, who is now 16-17 overall.
Tarleton now leads its all-time series with Angelo State, 15-14.