The first two times Tarleton State faced top 10 opponents this season, it didn't go so well.

The Texans suffered their worst loss in school history in a 65-3 defeat at No. 4 Abilene Christian, and were defeated 48-17 at then No. 7 West Texas A&M.

But Tarleton (2-5 overall, 2-4 LSC, 1-2 South) is fresh off its second win in the last three weeks, both coming in dramatic fashion.

Head coach Cary Fowler believes his club is ready to make a stronger statement in its annual homecoming game when the Texans host No. 7 Texas A&M-Kingsville (6-1, 5-1, 3-1) in Lone Star Conference South Division action at 6 p.m. Saturday.

"I'm excited to see the Javelinas out there," he said. "They have the most storied program in the conference, and that makes it exciting anytime you get the chance to play those guys.

"We're improving every week, our young players are growing up fast and we're healthier this week than we have been all year," Fowler continued. "We're ready to go out on Saturday and continue to show how we've been progressing and improving and make a big statement against a really good football team."

The Javelinas are coming off a big win. They scored the final 15 points to come from behind and knock off West Texas A&M 28-24 in Kingsville last week, a win that moved them up two spots in the AFCA poll. They are ranked No. 6 by

It's a Javelina team that has fought through its share of challenges - namely the loss of running back Fred Winborn to academic dishonesty and wide receiver Delashaun Dean to a knee injury.

But through it all, TAMUK - which began the season with a win over defending national champ Northwest Missouri State - has just one loss, a 31-24 squeaker at home to ACU.

Fowler believes Javelina head coach Bo Atterbury is the driving force behind his team's success in the face of adversity.

"That's just Bo Atterbury," Fowler said. "I've known Bo for a long time. He's rebuilt that program and he's done it the right way. He has seniors now that he red-shirted there his first year, and they are the backbone of his program. We trying to establish our program the same way here at Tarleton."

The Javelinas are led by one of the nation's best defensive units. They are first in the LSC in scoring defense (14.1 points per game) total defense (235.0 yards), and also lead the league in stopping both the run (45.0 yards) and pass (190 yards).

Earlier this season Fowler said Abilene Christian has the best defense he's seen in the LSC in almost a decade. After watching film of TAMUK this week, he says he may have found one better.

"I think (TAMUK) is better in the secondary," he said. "(Both teams') fronts are very similar and their linebackers are very similar. I can't say who has the better line or linebackers, but (TAMUK) has the better secondary."

Offensively neither team is lighting up the scoreboard. The Javs average 24.9 points per game and the Texans average 21.3.

"I think it will be a good, physical game," Fowler said. "We have to play great defense. If we do that and protect (Stephens) and we can take advantage of every opportunity offensively, we'll have a chance."

The first-year head coach certainly doesn't mind the extra energy boost provided by a large homecoming crowd. Reserved seating was sold out early in the week.

"Our kids love playing at home, and it will be even better with a big homecoming crowd and all the positive energy that can bring to the game," Fowler said. "A lot of our kids will have their families here. Boys love to play in front of Mom and Dad."