Tarleton State is looking to finish off a complete 180-degree shift from their 0-3 start to the 2006 football season.
A win over Southeastern Oklahoma State would do just that, as the Texans look to stay undefeated and run their record to 3-0 Saturday in Durant, Okla.
National and regional respect is on the line, as the Texans and Savage Storm both are included in this week’s American Football Coaches Association top 25 poll. SOSU is tied for No. 16 with fellow Lone Star Conference member West Texas A&M, while Tarleton is No. 22.
Tarleton is rated in two other national polls, as D2football.com ranks the Texans No. 22, and the College Sports Report ranks them No. 8. Southeastern is not included in either poll.
While Tarleton was busy knocking off Division I Subdivision member Stephen F. Austin, 27-24, in overtime last week, Southeastern was blowing past Northwestern Oklahoma State, a power in the NAIA ranks, in their season opener. The Savage Storm jumped out to a 21-0 second-quarter lead before NWOSU finally got on the board. At one point, SOSU led the contest 48-13, before two meaningless late touchdowns made the final 48-26.
Kolby Williams led the Savage Storm offense, completing 14-20 pass attempts for 295 yards, including a 65-yarder to Taylor Carter. Williams’ favorite target was Brandon Covington, who hauled in four receptions for 59 yards. Daniel Nichols scored twice on three receptions, while the other touchdown pass was to Robbie Morris. Southeastern tallied a total of 317 passing yards on 16 completions, averaging 19.8 yards per catch.
One glaring weakness did appear in Southeastern’s passing attack against NWOSU. The offensive line allowed Williams and back-up quarterback Brandon Noohi to be sacked a combined six times. Pass protection is something of great concern for Tarleton opponents this fall, as the Texans have posted a conference-leading eight sacks through two games.
As for the SOSU ground game, the stats from the opener are misleading. The box score shows 39 rushing attempts for only 98 yards. If you take away the yards lost on six sacks, however, the Savage Storm ran the ball 33 times for 154 yards for an average of 4.7 yards per carry. Tarleton has allowed only 2.9 yards per run this fall, surrendering 221 yards on 75 attempts.
The big question mark for the Savage Storm is its defense, after allowing Northwestern to compile 396 total yards last week. Southeastern gave 219 yards rushing and 177 through the air. Tarleton will counter with an offense that is averaging 219.5 yards passing and 200.5 yards rushing for a total of 420 yards per game.
The Texan running game is expected to become even more potent with the return of Michael Sampson, who missed the first two games with a nagging injury. Sampson, who was named Offensive Back of the Year in the LSC last year, is expected to return for Saturday’s showdown. Wide receiver Shamarr Prentice, a junior transfer from West Valley J.C., is also expected to be in the line-up for his first start. At 6-2, 200, Prentice adds size and speed to the Tarleton receiving core.
Southeastern defeated the Texans in week three of the 2006 season in Stephenville, 37-30. SOSU went on to finish the season with records of 6-4 overall, and 4-1 in the north division of the LSC.
The two schools have met 12 times on the gridiron, with Tarleton holding a 7-5 advantage in the series. Before falling to Southeastern last fall, the Texans had won six straight meetings between 1996 and 2004. Southeastern won the first four battles in the series, with the first two coming in 1976 and ‘77, and the others in 1994 and ‘95.
Kickoff in Durant Saturday is set for 6 p.m.