Sometimes you get a second chance.
Tarleton State does - a second chance to win a playoff game at Texas A&M-Kingsville after falling to the Javelinas 34-10 in the Texans' previous NCAA Division II post season appearance in 2003, and a second chance to win in Kingsville this season after falling 34-20 on Oct. 3.
Just like in their previous meeting this season, both teams are rated among the best in the region and the country. TAMUK (9-2) is No. 4 in Super Region Four and No. 13 in the final American Football Coaches Association poll. Tarleton (9-2) is No. 5 in the region and No. 12 in the nation.
Kickoff is 1 p.m. Saturday at Javelina Stadium with the winner advancing to a second-round match-up at Central Washington on Nov 21. CWU, the only undefeated team remaining in D2 football, is No. 1 in both the region and nation.
"It's a great opportunity for us (to be in the playoffs)," Tarleton head coach Sam McElroy said. "We're certainly excited about it, especially after coming so close the last few years."
Tarleton was 9-2 in 2007 and did not finish in the top six of the Super Region Four poll. They missed out again last year by finishing 8-3.
Now, that they're finally in, the Texans know one thing they can't do if they expect to win Saturday is turn the ball over.
The Texans plagued themselves with turnovers when they visited the Javs in South play. They gave the ball away six times - three on interceptions and three on fumbles - including three in the game's final six minutes after erasing a 14-0 deficit to the tie the score at 20-20 early in the fourth.
"We know we didn't play as well as we could (in the first meeting)," McElroy said. "Anytime you turn the ball over six times it's hard to win, especially against a good team on the road.”
Not to say the Javs didn't earn the win. The defense did have to force all those turnovers, after all, including the one that really turned the tide when Tarleton quarterback Grantham was sacked hard from his blind side and lost the ball, setting up the go-ahead score for TAMUK.
TAMUK also became the first team to have a 100-yard rusher against the Texans as Fred Winborn racked up 138 yards and two touchdowns.
"They certainly deserved to win that night," McElroy said. "They outplayed us, plain and simple."
TAMUK is a perfect 7-0 at home this season and has lost just once all time when hosting Tarleton.
But the Texans, even though they are coming off a 49-35 loss to West Texas A&M in the regular season finale, are confident this trip to Kingsville will be different.
"We put that (the losses to Kingsville and WT) behind us," McElroy said. "All the records go out the window now. Everybody starts over just like it's a new season."
McElroy says there has certainly been a different air about his football team in practice this week.
"Our guys are excited," he said. "We've had great practices all week. It's been good."