KINGSVILLE - There was no stopping Tarleton State in Kingsville this time.
Scott Grantham broke two tackles and spun away from another on a 20-yard touchdown run in double overtime, then added a two-point conversion to lift No. 12 Tarleton past No. 13 Texas A&M-Kingsville 57-56 in an NCAA Division II national playoff thriller in front of 13,352 at Javelina Stadium Saturday.
After the game, Grantham was asked if he had ever played in a game with as much excitement.
"Definitely not. It's the craziest one I've ever been a part of," he answered. "I've been in some close ones but nothing comes close to this."
Grantham's heroics completed a gutsy performance, as the junior quarterback played all but one offensive snap and was 20-40 passing for 296 yards and three touchdowns despite an injury to his throwing shoulder.
It appeared Texas A&M-Kingsville was headed for victory when signal caller Billy Garza rushed for a one-yard TD to put the Javelinas ahead 46-43 with only 49 seconds left in regulation.
But Garrett Lindholm, the Texans' hero against Midwestern State with a game-winning 55-yard field goal, came to the rescue again, this time with a shocking 64-yard field goal as time expired.
The kick broke Lindholm's own school record and is the second-longest field goal made in NCAA history. The NFL record is 63 yards.
"I don't hear anything when I'm out there," Lindholm said of lining up the kick with thousands of spectators on their feet shouting. I rely on (deep snapper) Kyle Piercefield and (holder) Arthur Buckingham. Buck kind of looks at me and shakes his head saying lets make this and we did."
Tarleton stalled after one first down in the first overtime and Lindholm hit a 27-yard field goal. Kingsville then faced fourth-and-goal at the Texan two. Rather than risk a win-or-lose play, TAMUK coach Bo Atterbury sent Christian Brom in and he drilled a 19-yard field goal to even the score at 49-49.
Kingsville got the ball first in the second overtime and Fred Winborn carried the ball on four of five plays, including a two-yard dash into the end zone to make it 56-49.
Tarleton then moved five yards in three plays before Grantham rolled right on fourth down, found no receivers open downfield, tucked the ball and took off. He was hit one yard short of first-down yardage but broke free from a pile of would be tacklers. The junior then spun away from two defenders before finding the end zone.
Tarleton head coach Sam McElroy says he had already decided to go for two and end the game one way or another, so Grantham lined up in a power formation and ran off right tackle. He hit a stagnant pile of bodies right at the goal line before falling just over the goal line for the win.
"We were beat up and they were, too," McElroy said. "I thought if we were to get the opportunity to end it right here we should, and that's what we did."
The playoff win was only the second in school history for Tarleton. It was also just its second win in Kingsville. Head coach Sam McElroy picked up his 40th win (40-13) as head coach, his first post season victory.
Tarleton advances to the second round for a date with No. 1 Central Washington, the only undefeated team remaining in all of D2 football, at 2 p.m. (CDT) next Saturday.
Tarleton and TAMUK, co-champs of the Lone Star Conference and the LSC South Division, went toe-to-toe all afternoon with the Texans overcoming deficits of 28-14 in the second quarter and 39-28 early in the fourth.
Tarleton led 14-0 early on. Grantham hit Jahmeel Hobson for a 51-yard score on the Texans' first offensive play, and the second TD was scored less than three minutes later when an interception by linebacker Matt Knicky set up a one-yard score by Keith Demby.
The Javelinas came roaring to life with the first two of Winborn's four touchdowns and a pair of defensive scores by DeIra Glover - the first on a 26-yard fumble return, the second a 40-yard pick six to make it 28-14.
The interception and return came on the only play Grantham missed. Kelan Luker took his place and his only pass attempt was tipped before Glover snagged it.
Hobson caught a pass, spun away from a pair of defensive backs and sprinted down the sideline for a 62-yard Tarleton score, before Brom hit a 45-yard field goal to end the half with the Javs leading 31-21.
Hobson finished with 10 receptions for 188 yards, the best game by a Tarleton receiver this year.
The Texans scored on the first possession of the second half when Evan Roberson sprinted 30 yards to paydirt, but TAMUK was quick to extend the lead again with a one-yard Winborn plunge.
Winborn was a workhorse, amassing 226 yards on 35 carries.
Down 39-28, Tarleton responded again, this time with Grantham hooking up with Devin Guinn for a TD and Bradley Peschke for a two-point possession to make it a three-point game with 1:29 left in the third.
For Guinn it was TD catch No. 26 in his career, a new Tarleton record. Jeremy Madkins scored on 25 receptions from 2003-06.
The Texans took a lead at the 8:22 mark of the fourth when Roderick Smith - Tarleton's all-time king - scored on an 11-yard run to make it 43-39.
Smith (13-67) and Robertson (19-131) combined for 208 rushing yards on 32 attempts.
The Javs then embarked on what appeared to be the game-winning drive, using up most of the final five minutes with a nine-play, 61-yard drive that ended in Garza's score with 49 ticks remaining.
The Texans rolled up a season-best 530 yards of total offense. Texas A&M-Kingsville had 402 total yards - 234 of it on the ground. Garza was 20-31 passing for 164 yards but tossed two picks and no touchdowns.
Tarleton was a perfect 4-4 on fourth down conversions - including Grantham's double-overtime stunnner and a diving catch by Buckingham for a 35-yard gain on fourth-and-18 to set the stage for Lindholm's big kick.