After last year's loss to Delta State to open the season, which happened to be the largest margin of defeat on the year for Tarleton, the Texans were eager to get their rematch against the Statesmen.
Not only did the Texans avenge last year's loss, they gave Texan fans a glimpse into what this year could pan out to be with a 44-13 rout over Delta State at Memorial Stadium on Thursday.
It's the first time in four tries that Tarleton has topped Delta State and it's the largest season-opening win for the Texans since 2008 when they beat Southeastern Oklahoma, 51-10. It's also the first season-opening victory for the Texans since 2014.
It didn't take long for new Tarleton quarterback Ben Holmes to give the fans something to cheer for either. On just the third play on the game, Holmes hit Zimari Manning in stride for a 70-yard touchdown pass for the game's first points. Holmes went 8-of-16 passing for 196 yards with two touchdowns in leading the Texans to 448 yards of offense.
The duo of Holmes and Manning teamed up once again in the second quarter, but this time it was Manning who made the play of the game and was featured on ESPN's SportsCenter. Holmes found Manning for a 10-yard pass and it appeared the junior wide-out would be tackled with five Statemen defenders swarming him and on his back. But Manning powered his way through and around the defenders to turn a 10-yard gain into a 65-yard touchdown and a 13-3 Texan lead. Manning finished his Texan debut with three catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
After a pair of field goals by Delta State and a 36-yard field goal by Tarleton's Joanly Martinez for a 16-6 advantage, Prince Robinsonmade the first of several momentum-building defensive plays for the Texans. Robinson snuck in front of a Statesmen receiver and intercepted the pass and returned it for a 36-yard touchdown with only 47 seconds left in the half. The Texans led 23-6 at halftime.
The Texans kept the ball rolling in the second half, but this time it was the running game that took over. D'Anthony Hopkins had a 35-yard run and finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to go up 30-6. Hopkins finished the game with 67 yards on 11 carries.
Four minutes later, Daniel McCants scored on a 56-yard touchdown run as part of a game-high 145 yards on just 14 carries. McCants' touchdown gave Tarleton a 44-6 lead with 3:51 in the third quarter.
Jai Edwards had the longest play of the game for the Texans and it came on the defensive end. Edwards intercepted a Delta State pass and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown and the game's largest lead at 44-6 with still 38 seconds left in the third quarter. Edwards led the Texans with eight tackles.
The Texan defense, which held Delta State to 326 yards, also had ChadWick Thibodeaux, Prince Robinson and Ed Hayes record seven tackles each while preseason All-American Tyrell Thompsonhad six QB hurries to force the pressure.
Tarleton will travel to Nacogdoches to take on Stephen F. Austin for its next game on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. which will be televised on ESPN+.