Tarleton State was the toast of the nation on Saturday as media ranging from local papers to Web sites covering NCAA Division II football to USA Today caught wind of the No. 12 Texans’ electrifying 57-56 double overtime win against rival Texas A&M-Kingsville in the opening round of the national playoffs at Javelina Stadium.
Next up for Tarleton is a trip to Ellensburg, Wash. for second round action against No. 1 Central Washington, the only undefeated team remaining in D2 football. The winner advances to the regional finals to face either No. 2 Northwest Missouri State or No. 18 Abilene Christian.
As senior kicker Garrett Lindholm lined up to attempt a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation, holder Arthur Buckingham kneeled down at HIS OWN 46-yard line. That alone was a sight to behold.
The first obstacle when kicking a long field goal is to get it past the line of scrimmage, because the trajectory of the kick must be lower. The ball cleared the line, and a whole lot more.
As the football flopped like a duck in the heavy wind and finally disappeared behind the cross bar, the officials under the goal post glanced at one another and gave their nods of approval. They each put two hands in the air, signaling the kick was good.
It was a 64-yarder, the longest in Tarleton school history, the second longest in NCAA Division II and the third longest in the history of all levels of NCAA football. It was also one yard longer than the record in the NFL.
USA Today sports columnist Mike Lopresti wrote, “(Thumbs) up to Garrett Lindholm. Who? Tarleton kicker boots 64-yard field goal as time expires to force overtime in a playoff game against Texas A&M-Kingsville, the second longest in Division II history. Tarleton wins 57-56 in the second overtime, gambling on a two-point conversion. Top that, big boys.”
Scott Grantham’s performance was gutsy to say the least. Since the fourth week of the season, Grantham has been battling a shoulder injury. It has been rumored that he needs surgery. On Saturday, he struggled on some deep throws, but played on.
After coming out for one play, Grantham re-entered the contest and never left again, finishing a mild 20-40 passing. He threw for 296 yards, an impressive three touchdowns, and saved his best for last.
On fourth-and-five in the second overtime, with the Texans needing seven points to extend the game and eight to win, Grantham rolled right, decided to run, somehow escaped a pile near the yardage needed for a first down, spun away from two other defenders and scored.
The junior trigger puller then added the game-winning two-point-conversion on a quarterback off-tackle right. He hit a pile at the goal line and used an exhilarating second-effort plunge to reach pay dirt.
2009 team among Tarleton’s best
Are the 2009 Texans the best football team Tarleton has ever fielded? Arguments in their favor can now be made.
Tarleton won an NCAA playoff game for the second time in school history, matching the achievement of the 2001 Texans. They also matched that team’s co-championships in the Lone Star Conference and the LSC South.
The Texans have won 10 games for only the third time in school history. They will try to match the school record of 11 wins this weekend. The 1991 team went 11-1 when Tarleton was a member of the NAIA.
Guinn gets record
Devin Guinn became Tarleton’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns with his third-quarter scoring catch Saturday. The senior has now scored on 26 receptions, surpassing the old mark of 25 belonging to Jeremy Madkins (2003-06).
Hobson goes wild
Jahmeel Hobson hauled in 10 catches for 188 yards and touchdowns of 51 yards and 62 yards for the Texans, easily the best game by a Tarleton receiver this season.
Hobson, a senior who once played with Grantham in a high school all-star game, scored on Tarleton’s first offensive play, and added his second TD late in the second quarter to bring the Texans back to life after falling behind 28-14.
Central Washington, a member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, is a long-time Division II power. CWU handed defending national champ Minnesota-Duluth its only loss early on this season.
The Wildcats and Texans have one common opponent in West Texas A&M. CWU defeated the Buffaloes 34-10 before the return of WT star Keithon Flemming. He suited up against the Texans and WT won 49-35.
CWU has made a living on winning close games, with three victories by seven points or less and seven wins by 14 points or less.
The Wildcats, who had a bye last week as the top seed in Super Region Four, feature a defense that is surrendering only 11.6 points and 242.5 yards per game. Buddy Wood and Prince Hall are the leading tacklers with 87 and 86, respectively.
Offensively, CWU has been 54-percent run, 46-percent pass this season with running backs Randall Eldridge (188-765) and Bryson Kelly (103-500) combining for an average of 115 rushing yards per game. Two quarterbacks have seen action in nine games each. Ryan Robertson has started eight contests, completing 57.3 percent of his passes for 1,275 yards and 13 touchdowns. Cole Morgan has started three games and is 54.3 percent passing for 1,000 yards and seven scores.