Texan defense leads TSU back to win column
STEPHENVILLE – Two defensive touchdowns on back-to-back possessions set the tone for the Tarleton Texans on Family Weekend as the purple and white throttled Mississippi College 39-14 Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Tarleton came out of the gate hot – scoring on its first offensive possession and then back-to-back defensive possessions – to build a 21-0 lead just over six minutes into the game.
Steven Duncan and J.F. Thomas got the offense going with a 50-yard connection that ultimately led to a 15-yard touchdown pass to cap off a 7-play, 80-yard drive to open the game and put Tarleton on top 7-0.
On the Choctaw's second play from scrimmage, Jordan Wells knocked the ball free and Zech Hopkins picked it up and returned it 60 yards to pay dirt to extend the lead out to 14-0. After MC received the ensuing kickoff, the managed to successfully hold onto the ball for four plays before coughing it up again – this time forced by Ronnell Wilson and scooped up by Benjie Franklin, who returned it 48 yards for the score and a 21-0 lead.
After a second-quarter chip shot field goal from Adrian Guzman extended the lead out to 24-0, Mississippi College found the endzone with an 11-yard run.
However, even on a Choctaw touchdown, the Texan defense found a way to create some fireworks.
Franklin blocked the PAT and returned it 98 yards for a two-point safety to put the Texans up 26-6. Guzman added another short field goal before the half to send the Texans into the break up 29-6.
Tarleton didn't get much offensive time in the third quarter as the Choctaws held onto the opening kickoff for a 19-play, 75-yard drive that ate up 12:56 of clock time. The Texans another Guzman field goal and a final touchdown from Ryheem Skinner to close out the scoring.
Steven Duncan took all the snaps under center for Tarleton and was 18-28 passing for 259 yards with a touchdown. Skinner led the ground game with 24 carries for 106 yards and a score. Thomas was Duncan's top receiving target with 77 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
Ronnell Wilson set a career high with 22 tackles and was six stops short of tying Tally Neal's single-game record for tackles (28) set in 1975. He made 5.0 tackles behind the line of scrimmage – making him the first Texan since Rufus Johnson in 2011 with 5.0 tackles for a loss in a game. He also forced two fumbles.
The Texan defense held Mississippi College to 265 yards of total offense, including just 40 through the air on 1-7 passing. The triple-option Choctaws ran 59 times for 225 yards.
Tarleton will travel to St. George, Utah next Saturday for a rematch with the Dixie State Trailblazers. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT.