FCS Independents No. 22 Tarleton, Dixie State to clash in Stephenville

TSU Sports Information
Tarleton's J.F. Thomas (88) reaches for a pass during the Texans' game against the New Mexico State Aggies at the Sun Bowl in El Paso on Sunday.
New Mexico State's Andre Bodison (11) runs the ball 
while Tarleton's Benjie Franklin (7) and Josh Kemp (16)
prepare for the tackle as the Aggies and Texans faced off at the Sun Bowl in El Paso on Sunday.

Fresh off its first-ever win as a Division I program, Tarleton will return home for a 2 p.m. Saturday showdown with fellow FCS Independent program and WAC transitional school Dixie State in Stephenville at Memorial Stadium.

The game will be aired live on ESPN+. John Liddle and Scott Garner will have the call from Memorial Stadium in Stephenville. The Tarleton Sports Network presented by the North Texas Ford Dealers will have the radio call online at TarletonSports.com/watch or on the airwaves at 90.5 FM in Stephenville and surrounding areas.

Limited tickets remain available for purchase at TarletonSports.com/Tickets. Due to COVID-19-related limitations, Memorial Stadium will only seat 50% of its capacity. Student tickets remain free of charge, but Tarleton students with a valid ID will need to order a ticket through the ticket software. Walk-up ticket sales are not permitted this spring. All tickets must be purchased online in advance.

• Game day festivities

Saturday is Pink Out day at Memorial Stadium. Tarleton will welcome the Pink Warrior Angels, who will be on hand to promote cancer awareness. Fans are encouraged to wear pink in addition to their purple and white.

Texan Alley Tailgate will open at 9 a.m. in Lot A and limited spaces are available for purchase at the gate. Special COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place. For maps of the area and complete tailgating policies, visit TarletonSports.com/TexanAlley. Non-tailgating lots will open four hours prior to kickoff.

• About the matchup

This is the first-ever meeting between Tarleton and Dixie State on the football field.

Tarleton and Dixie State are in the midst of similar university journeys as FCS Independent football programs. Both the Texans and Trailblazers made the jump from NCAA Division II to Division I as members of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) on July 1. Since the WAC does not currently sponsor football, both teams are FCS Independents until the WAC reinstates football this fall.

• Quick hits

Tarleton is coming off its first win as an NCAA Division I program and its first-ever win over an FBS-level opponent. The Texans defeated FBS Independent New Mexico State 43-17 at UTEP's The Sun Bowl in El Paso last Sunday.

Todd Whitten enters the game as Tarleton's all-time wins leader (80) and win percentage (.678). While every new victory is a milestone, his win last week made him the first Texan coach in school history to reach 80 career victories for the purple and white.

This is the first of two games this season between the Texans and Trailblazers. Tarleton is scheduled to visit Dixie State in St. George, Utah, on March 13. This is the first time that Tarleton has scheduled the same team in the regular season twice since 1990. The Texans have played the same opponent in the same season since then on multiple occasions in seeded, playoff settings.

Tarleton was without five offensive starters last week due to COVID-19 protocols. They will be without the one positive test from last week; but the four others, who were sidelined as a result of contact tracing, will be eligible to return following a series of testing throughout this week.

Notable

Tarleton cracks national Top 25 poll after route of NM State: The thrashing of FBS New Mexico State opened the eyes of national voters as the Texans debuted at No. 22 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 ranking for the first time in school history. In the national rankings, Tarleton joins the ranks of FCS elite – including a familiar foe, McNeese State, who debuted at No. 19.

Stats perform FCS National Team of the Week: The Texans were named the Stats Perform FCS National Team of the week after defeating New Mexico State on Feb. 21 in El Paso. Tarleton earned their first win as a Division I institution and their first win ever against an FBS-level opponent. The Texans totaled 501 yards of offense while the Texan defense held New Mexico State to 241 yards for the afternoon. Tarleton forced three interceptions – two by Donovan Banks and one from Benjie Franklin on the opening drive of the second half.

Burston

Burston claims National Offensive Player of the Week: Cameron Burston was a spark plug for the Texans after being elevated to the starting QB position hours before kickoff when five Tarleton offensive starters were held out due to COVID-19 safety protocols. In his first career start, the senior from Vallejo, California, wasted no time making his presence felt. He took a QB keeper around the left side for a 70-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. On Tarleton's second drive, he connected with Douglas on an 86-yard touchdown pass on the first play again. For the day, Burston threw for 252 yards and two scores while rushing for 79 more with a pair of touchdowns. He accounted for four Tarleton touchdowns in the 43-17 rout.

Douglas

Douglas named honorable mention POW: Behind Burston, Gabe Douglas was an honorable mention selection for the offensive honor. Douglas was the primary beneficiary of Burston's career performance. The junior wide receiver welcomed himself to Texan Nation with a seven-catch, 190-yard afternoon with two touchdowns. All career highs for the junior wideout in his second game at Tarleton.

• Up next

Next Saturday is Family Weekend at Tarleton State University. The Texans will play host to Mississippi College for a 2 p.m. kickoff at Memorial Stadium in Stephenville. Limited tickets remain available for purchase at TarletonSports.com/Tickets. Due to COVID-19-related limitations, Memorial Stadium will only seat 50% of its capacity. Student tickets remain free of charge, but Tarleton students with a valid ID will need to order a ticket through the ticket software. Walk-up ticket sales are not permitted this spring. All tickets must be purchased online in advance.

About the Game

• The Teams: #22 Tarleton Texans (1-1 FCS Independent) vs. Dixie State (0-0 FCS Independent)

• Where: Stephenville

• Stadium: Memorial Stadium

• Time: 2 p.m. CT

• Streaming Platform: ESPN+

• Radio: Tarleton Sports Network on 90.5 FM (Byron Anderson, Kyle Masters)