Tarleton State will try to give Cary Fowler his first 2-0 start as a head coach Saturday when the Texans visit Angelo State.
Tarleton is fresh off a 27-24 upset of Midwestern State in the Lone Star Football Festival, dropping MSU from No. 13 to No. 25 in the latest American Football Coaches Association top 25. An upset in the mind of pollsters, apparently, but not in the mind of Fowler.
“I felt like we wore them down, especially their defense, with the tempo we were able to play at,” said Fowler. “That’s exactly why we operate that way, and we practice it day-in and day-out.”
The Texans also did a number defensively on the Mustangs. holding them to 79 yards on the ground, their lowest total in almost four years. All-American running back Keidric Jackson was limited to 46 yards after gaining 1,382 in 2012. The senior topped 100 yards just once in his career against Tarleton.
“Our run defense was huge and it will have to be again this week against a different type of offense and a different type of test,” said Fowler, who is preparing his team to face mobile quarterback Kyle Washington whether he plays or not.
Washington went down in the fourth quarter of Angelo State’s 45-24 loss to No. 5 Colorado State-Pueblo in the final game of the festival Saturday night. The Rams previously defeated Black Hills State (SD) 38-26 in their opener.
“He went down and he didn’t come back,” said Fowler. “I don’t know if that was just precautionary or what, but we’re going to prepare as if he’ll be back there, and he’s a good one. He’s dangerous on his feet.”
Washington has rushed for 236 yards and an average of 15.7 yards per carry. He ran six times for 97 yards against Black Hills, and nine times for 139 yards against CSU-Pueblo. ASU trailed 21-3 at halftime before Washington had a 78-yard scoring run and a 16-yard TD pass to get the Rams temporarily back in the game in the third quarter last week.
Jeremie Calhoun rushed for 140 yards against Black Hills, but was limited to 51 by CSU-P. Blake Smith has virtually rotated carries with Calhoun and has 74 yards through two games.
Washington was 12-17 passing against Black Hills, and facing a deficit, passed the ball twice as many times, going 20-34, against CSU-Pueblo. He also tossed an interception in the loss.
When Washington hasn’t been behind center, Wayne Truesdale has come in and gone 7-12 for 113 yards, and Cameron Waites has gone 5-10.
Talon Smith is ASU’s favorite target through the air with nine grabs for 96 yards. Joey Knight, Alex Young and Quinn Reels each have at least six catches.
“They’re solid offensively, and they’ve put up some good numbers,” Fowler said of ASU, which averages 516 yards of offense and 31 points per game. “They had 438 yards against the No. 5 team in the country last week.”
Tarleton quarterbacks Aaron Doyle and Jake Fenske worked their series of various run and pass option plays to the tune of 24-29 passing combined, for 182 yards. Fenske was 11-12 for 107 yards and a touchdown. Doyle was 13-17 and rushed for a score.
“I told everyone, we don’t have a quarterback controversy. We have two quarterbacks,” said Fowler. “They’re both great leaders, and we’re going to continue to use both of them moving forward. We can do a lot of things with those two guys.”
One thing both did was find Clifton Rhodes III, who had eight catches for 50 yards last week. Bubba Tandy and Le’Nard Meyers each caught scoring strikes from Fenske, Tandy’s coming on a leaping grab over two Midwestern defenders on fourth-and-five from the eight. That score put Tarleton up for good early in the third quarter, and the Texans eventually led by as many as 17 before holding off a late MSU charge.
Tarleton showed to again have a nice 1-2 punch on the ground, with Zach Henshaw carrying the ball 19 times for 87 yards and Jerome Regal rushing 18 times for 86 yards and a TD. Tarleton rushed for 230 yards, the most MSU has allowed in almost two seasons. The Texans were the only team to rush for more than 200 yards against the Mustangs last fall.
“That’s how we’re going to be,” said Fowler. “We’re going to be balanced between the run and the pass, and we’re going to spread the ball around, whether Midwestern, Angelo or anyone else.”
Tarleton has won 11 straight against the Rams, with the last loss coming in 2000. The Texans beat ASU 54-37 in Stephenville last year. Before that, the three prior meetings between the two teams were all determined by a seven points or less.
Angelo once won 13 of 14 against Tarleton, but with their dominance of late, the Texans lead the series, which dates back to 1965, 15-14.