The Tarleton football program enters its final week of the regular season and does so with perhaps their toughest test remaining on the schedule - a road trip to take on the No. 4 team in Super Region Four Texas A&M-Commerce.
The No. 4 Lions enter Saturday’s game with a 9-1 overall record and a 7-1 Lone Star Conference record, with their only loss being a 26-25 game to the region’s No. 2 team Midwestern State several weeks ago.
Tarleton has a 5-5 record thus far in head coach Todd Whitten’s first season back with the team, including a 5-3 LSC record, and are coming off of a heartbreaking 21-16 loss to Midwestern last week.
“It’s been great, it’s all about these 100 players we have out there and I’m proud of them and the way they’ve bought into the program and the effort they’ve put forth in the classroom and in the weight room,” said Whitten regarding his first year back at the helm of the team. “We’ve got some really good young people that we have the opportunity to coach.”
In a game that will determine whether or not the Texans finish above .500 on the season, it’s been a strange up and down year for Tarleton.
Of their four losses to Division II programs, Tarleton has lost all four by a combined 24 points, the largest deficit being a 12-point loss in Canyon to West Texas A&M. Two others included one to Midwestern in which the Texans led 10-3 at halftime and lost 21-16 and the other a 21-17 loss to A&M-Kingsville, who scored all 21 points unanswered in the second half.
“I would like to think our team has been prepared every week. As a coach that’s the first thing we try to accomplish and that our guys are ready to play,” said Whitten. “We’ve been prepared I think, but we have to finish better and clean some things up from a penalty standpoint. By and large, we’ve gone out and played fairly well most Saturdays, but we just aren’t where we need to be still as a program and we’ll continue to work hard at improving that. I’m proud of what our players, coaches, training and weight room staff have accomplish though. Everyone has done a great job.”
In order for the Texans to steal a victory Saturday, two guys they’ll have to key include Commerce’s talented quarterback Luis Perez and running back Richard Cooper.
Perez has thrown 271 passes this season and has completed 180 of them for 2,528 yards, including 26 touchdown passes. Cooper is averaging an impressive 6.1 yards per carry and has rushed for a total of 958 yards on 153 attempts this season.
“For us to win, we’re going to have to harass their quarterback. He hasn’t hardly been touched all season. They’re running back is also a huge threat, he has some of the best feet I’ve ever seen at the position and I think very highly of him,” Whitten said. “ We’re also going to have to take care of the ball, they do a great job of creating turnovers and we’ll have to protect our quarterback and put some drives together.”
Speaking of Tarleton’s quarterback situation, it appears to have been cleared up once again, but not from Derek Kiser's or Zed Woerner's recent performances.
“Zed is going to be our quarterback on Saturday,” said Whitten. “Derek (Kiser) suffered a knee injury last week and is likely out until February.”
Woerner has played in all 10 of Tarleton’s games this season and has thrown for 2,242 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Tarleton and Texas A&M-Commerce are scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m. today in Commerce.