1986 Sunflower Bowl championship team inducted into Tarleton Athletics Hall of Fame
STEPHENVILLE — The historic Sunflower Bowl champion Tarleton Texan football team received the ultimate honor on Saturday night. They were forever immortalized in program history as the newest member of the Tarleton Athletics Hall of Fame, inducted on campus of Tarleton State University in Stephenville.
The 1986 football team became the 174th inductee into the Tarleton Athletics Hall of Fame and the sixth team of student-athletes – the third team from the storied football program, joining the 1977 and 1978 teams. The Tarleton Hall of Fame also includes the 1959 Track and Field Sprint Relay team, the 1991 Track and Field Mile Relay team, and the 1992 Women's Basketball team that finished as NAIA national runners-up.
The Tarleton Athletics Hall of Fame had already inducted seven individuals from this historic team – Mark Baskin, Gaylon Bowser, Danny David, Craig Hancock, Robert Ivey, Mike Myers and Rodney Webb.
Speakers on behalf of the team at the ceremony Saturday were Melvin Modesty, Brad Webb, Mike Myers and head coach Bill Pringle.
The 1986 team set a slew of school records for the time, including single-season rushing yards (2,182), total offense (3,521), and most points scored (237).
That season began in darkness though as the Texans suffered a 27-12 loss on the road to Oklahoma Panhandle and appeared primed for an 0-2 start to the season as the Texans faced a 14-21 deficit in Stephenville against Howard Payne with 2:24 left in the home opener.
As Howard Payne attempted to run down the clock, Jeffrey Edwards recovered a fumble to give Tarleton new life. The Texan offense capitalized with a touchdown from Danny David to Melvin Modesty. After a muffed snap on the two-point try, David picked it up and crossed the goal line for a 22-21 win that sparked life into the Texans' season. It concluded a run of four straight games against scholarship opponents.
Tarleton visited Harding the following week and came away with a 17-17 tie to put the fate of the Texans' season in jeopardy in just the fourth week of the season. The Texans hosted Texas Lutheran for the swing game of the 1986 season – a contest that could keep a postseason berth possible.
The Texans built a 21-9 lead entering the fourth quarter before Lutheran scored to cut the lead down to 21-16. Lutheran had a chance to take the lead on the final drive of the game, but a 12-yard sack by Rockie Martin on first down and a game-sealing interception from Craig Hancock turned the tide of the season for Tarleton.
That win marked the first of, what would go on to be, seven consecutive wins to end the regular season. Four of those seven wins came by multiple scores, including a 38-22 thumping of McMurry in the annual homecoming game on October 11 and a 17-point road win over No. 11 Austin College the following week.
The 8-1-1 Texan Football team was denied a spot in the NAIA national playoffs but received an invitation to the Sunflower Bowl in Winfield, Kansas against Benedictine College in a battle of the NAIA's top-two ranked teams not in the national playoffs.
The No. 8-ranked Texans jumped out to an early 17-0, but the No. 11-ranked Ravens answered back with 15 unanswered points before Tarleton added another touchdown to take a 24-15 lead into halftime.
Benedictine came roaring out of the gate in the second half with a 23-7 scoring run to take a 38-31 lead into the fourth quarter. Tarleton got a field goal from Mike Meyers and the third rushing touchdown of the day from Gaylon Bowser to seal the victory 40-38. Tarleton racked up 426 total yards of offense in the victory and Bowser rushed for a then-school record 210 yards in the season finale. At the time, Bowser was just the second Texan in school history to rush for over 200 yards in a game.