Explosive plays the theme for Tarleton’s offense in 2021

TSU Sports Information

STEPHENVILLE — At the start of the year, Tarleton head coach Todd Whitten preached about the need for the offense to make explosive plays. Meticulously marching down the field is great, but chunk plays can turn a game on its head and swing the momentum in one's favor.

Not only did the Texans do well in recording those big plays in 2021, the offense also avoided negative game-changing plays.

Tarleton's Devin Hafford runs the ball down field during one of the team's matchups during the 2021 season. Hafford was named to the 2021 Stats Perform FCS All-America Team and the 2021 Associated Press FCS All-America Team.

For conversation sake, explosive plays will be labeled as plays that covered 20 or more yards.

The Texans had 63 explosive plays in their 11 games, an average of 5.7 20+ yard plays per game. Of the 63 plays, 46 of the 20-yard chunk shots were through the air. To match that with Tarleton's first season in NCAA Division I, the Texans had 40 plays cover 20+ yards across eight games, an average of 5.0 such plays per game. There were 30 completions that went for 20 or more yards.

The longest gain of this past season happened on the very first play of Tarleton's home game against New Mexico Highlands on Sept. 25. Steven Duncan roped it 25 yards in the air to Tariq Bitson, who took it all the way to the Cowboys' 1-yard line for an 84-yard completion.

Bitson

Altogether, the Texans averaged 26.9 points, 416.4 total yards, 239.9 passing yards and 176.5 rushing yards per game this season.

Now, some of those marks are lower than Tarleton has been accustomed to, but those were the Division II days. How does it all compare at the FCS level in Division I? All of the below rankings are hypotheticals, as Tarleton does not receive recognition on national stat boards yet due to their reclassification period.

The Texans averaged the 26th most yards per game across all of the FCS at 413.9 on average. Even more impressive, Tarleton averaged the 11th most yards per play at 6.4 per.

Whitten, who has called every single offensive play in his storied career at Tarleton, had a balanced attack, with 53.7 percent of the offense on the ground, 46.3 percent through the air. A lot of the time, Duncan made the choice himself running the run-pass option out of the shotgun, as he surveyed the landscape. Defenses hardly knew what to prepare for in any type of attack, which was a "pick your poison" offense.

The Texans averaged 5.01 yards per rush, the 16th best mark in the FCS. Through the air, Tarleton took their shots, covering 8.02 yards per pass attempt, good for 19th in the FCS. They were tied-21st in yards per completion at 13.26 yards per. As an offense, the Texans had a passing efficiency of 141.85, 23rd in the FCS, posting the tied-31st most passing touchdowns at 20.

The purple and white gave themselves great opportunities to score, getting to the red zone 49 times, tied-20th most in the FCS. The Texans usually took advantage, scoring 39 times of those attempts, the tied-24th most red zone scores in their football division.

On the flip side of explosive plays, Tarleton avoided the big negative plays, essentially limiting their opponents' defensive explosive plays. The offensive line gets the roses when it comes to that, allowing the tied-12th fewest total sacks in the FCS at 13. It was the tied-14th fewest sacks allowed per game at 1.18, going for the 10th fewest amount of negative yardage at 77. In tackles for a loss in general, the big men up front allowed the tied-14th fewest in the FCS at 49, the tied-18th fewest per game at 4.45.

Todd Whitten

Under Whitten's tutelage, Tarleton is 51-1 when scoring 40 or points, a 4-0 mark in 2021. They're 32-2 when exceeding 500 yards of offense, 2-0 this past season.

They say defense wins championships, but offensive bursts have put the Texans on the winning side quite often, as well.