FRISCO — Tarleton State sophomore running back Jerome Regal turned in a royal performance Saturday by scoring the game-winning touchdown on the Texans' second possession of overtime to beat rival Abilene Christian 41-34 in front of 5,500 soggy fans at Toyota Stadium.
Abilene Christian's bid to tie the game and force a third overtime fell short, as quarterback John David Baker's pass on fourth-and-10 sailed out of the back of the end zone. The incomplete pass sealed No. 25 Tarleton State's first victory over Abilene Christian in their past four meetings.
The Wildcats' final drive was not without controversy. On fourth-and-10, the two teams were flagged for off-setting penalties after ACU committed a forward pass during its scramble for a first down, while members of the Tarleton bench left the far sideline early to celebrate what seemed certain to be a victory. The big defensive play of the series for the Texans came on ACU's second play of the possession when redshirt freshman Jake Blount sacked Baker for a 10-yard loss.
The two penalties allowed ACU to replay fourth down, but Tarleton's defense held strong on the next play and forced the incompletion.
Tarleton's sophomore running back Regal turned the Abilene Christian defense into a cast of jesters with his 251-yard rushing performance.
The Texans outgained ACU 484-361 by grinding out 290 yards on the ground. But turnovers plagued the Texans, too, as they committed three fumbles and one interception.
Those miscues nearly cost Tarleton State the game.
The Wildcats outscored the Texans 21-7 at one point in the second half to take a 31-28 lead in the fourth quarter.
But late in the fourth quarter, Tarleton State's defense came up big. The Texans forced Abilene Christian into a three-and-out possession, getting the ball back and a chance to either take the lead or tie the game with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
It would be the latter.
Early in the possession, Tarleton faced a fourth down and 1, but quarterback Jake Fenske found receiver Jeken Frye for an 8-yard gain to the ACU 25.
Six plays later, with only 8 seconds left on the clock on third down, the Texans' sophomore kicker Blake Barnes split the uprights from 29 yards out to tie the game and eventually force overtime.
In the first overtime, ACU was able to gain one first down, but then was forced to kick a 17-yard field goal to take a 34-31 lead.
On their possession, the Texans were not able to gain a first down, and depended on the leg of Barnes, who left little doubt and made good on a 34-yard field goal.
The field goal allowed the Texans to live another round — and they made it count.
The big play that set up Tarleton's game-winning drive in the second OT came on fourth-and-1, and from who else, Regal.
Regal gained 7 yards on a pitch for a first down to set up the game-winning play — his own 10-yard run into the corner of the end zone.
Tarleton passed for 194 yards in the game, led by quarterback Jake Fenske's 159 yards on 16-of-32 passing. Collin Strahan, who came in the game for drives in the fourth quarter, threw for 35 yards on 3-of-6 passing.
A 51-yard interception return for a touchdown by Desmond Jackson and Regal's 112-yard performance were two key factors in the Texans' 21-10 first-half advantage.
Regal capped the first half with a 6-yard touchdown run. The score put a bow on an 11-play, 75-yard Texan drive.
Jackson's 51-yard interception return for a TD came with 1:11 left in the first quarter to put the Texans up 14-0.
Fenske threw the first of his two touchdown passes, a 26-yard strike to Bubba Tandy with less than three minutes left in the first quarter, to put TSU ahead 7-0 in the first quarter. The score capped a five-play, 54-yard scoring drive.
ACU did all of its first-half damage in the second quarter. ACU kicker Nik Grau split the uprights on a 36-yard field goal. The Wildcats scored their only touchdown of the first half on a 3-yard pass from Baker to Jonathan Parker.