SPRING FOOTBALL ROUNDUP: Tarleton rebounds to blast Mississippi College in FCS tilt; Hardin-Simmons lassos Texas Lutheran in NCAA DIII showcase, UMHB continues rolling undefeated
Seeking normalcy in the most unusual of situations, weather conditions turned mildly spring-like across the state of Texas last week as the threat of COVID-19 appeared to be subsiding, allowing the unprecedented college spring football season to play a full slate of games in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and NCAA Division III.
Playing its first season as a NCAA Division I (FCS) program, Tarleton State (2-2) continued to grab the spotlight with an impressive 39-14 victory over Mississippi College (0-1) last Saturday. In other FCS action across Texas, Prairie View A&M (1-0) edged Texas Southern (0-1) in dramatic fashion, 20-19; and Incarnate Word (2-0) rolled over Lamar (0-2), 42-20.
In NCAA Division III action, Anthony Aviles nailed a 27-yard field goal with 2:12 remaining in the game as Mary Hardin-Baylor (3-0) remained undefeated with a hard-fought 30-28 road victory over East Texas Baptist (2-2) Saturday.
In what many considered the game of the week, Hardin-Simmons dominated Texas Lutheran, 33-14, while Austin College (1-2) claimed its first win of the season by defeating Millsaps (0-3), 27-17; Howard Payne (1-1) blasted Sul Ross State (0-3), 53-14, and Hendrix (Ark) remained undefeated (2-0) with a 13-3 victory over Trinity (Tx) (2-1).
TARLETON STATE 39, MISSISSIPPI COLLEGE 14
STEPHENVILLE – Making the most of Family Weekend at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon, the Tarleton State Texans scored 21 unanswered first quarter points on their way to an impressive 39-14 victory over Mississippi College.
After scoring on their first offensive possession of the game, the Texans (2-2) capitalized on back-to-back defensive scores to build a 21-0 advantage just six minutes into the game.
“To get a win was big for us right now – we’ve been struggling a bit,” Tarleton State head coach Todd Whitten. “That was priority number one. And any time you play a triple option team it’s going to be a difficult week, and I was very proud of the way our defense played. And I was pretty pleased with the way we played on offense.”
After teaming up on a 50-yard completion to move into the red zone, quarterback Steven Duncan connected with wide receiver J.F. Thomas for a 15-yard touchdown pass to cap a seven-play, 80-yard drive to open the game. Defensively, Tarleton State quickly turned two Choctaw fumbles into scores as Zech Hopkins found the end zone on a 60-yard return before Benjie Franklin returned another 48 yards.
That would prove to be all the points the Texans would need for victory. Duncan completed 18 of 28 passes for 259 yards with a touchdown, Skinner led the ground game with 24 carries for 106 yards and a score, and Thomas hauled in a team-high four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, Ronnell Wilson led the Texans with a career high with 22 tackles – six stops short of tying Tally Neal’s single-game record for tackles (28) set in 1975 – and forced two fumbles.
UMHB 30, EAST TEXAS BAPTIST 28
MARSHALL – Staying undefeated in the American Southwest Conference, the Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders took the lead late and held off a last-ditch effort to edge East Texas Baptist 30-28. With the win, UMHB clinches at least a share of the ASC East Division title.
Although the Crusaders (3-0) enjoyed a 27-7 lead with 5:47 left in the third quarter, East Texas Baptist (2-2) rallied for 21 unanswered points to hold a one-point advantage with 7:26 remaining in the game. UMHB answered with Anthony Aviles’ 37-yard field goal with 2:12 on the clock, then the Cru defense forced a turnover to preserve the win.
UMHB allowed a team to score more than 20 points in the regular season for the first time since ETBU put 21 on the board in the 2017 regular season finale. The Tigers rolled up 384 yards of total offense, but the Cru defense countered by forcing six turnovers.
Freshman running back Montana Miller led UMHB with 50 rushing yards on 11 carries, junior quarterback Kyle King hit five of 13 passes for 81 yards, and senior wide receiver Brenton Martin hauled in four catches for 68 yards. Defensively, senior linebacker Mikkah Hackett led the Cru defense with 12, while senior defensive back Jefferson Fritz added two interceptions to his UMHB and ASC career record.
HARDIN-SIMMONS 33, TEXAS LUTHERAN 14
ABILENE – After opening the game by scoring 19 unanswered points, Hardin-Simmons rolled to an impressive 33-14 victory over Texas Lutheran Saturday in its first game played at Shelton Stadium in 16 months.
Scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions, the Cowboys added a defensive safety in the first quarter before tacking on Jamie Pogue’s 33-yard field goal to quickly build a comfortable lead.
“That’s crucial,” Hardin-Simmons head coach Jesse Burleson said. “You obviously want to score every possession, but that first one sets the tone for the day. I thought we put together some good mix of runs and passes to get that thing in the end zone.”
In the last game at Shelton Stadium on Nov. 16, 2019, the Cowboys beat Southwestern 49-6. Originally scheduled to open the 2020 season at home against Sul Ross State on Sept. 5, Hardin-Simmons saw the season get pushed back to the spring due to pandemic concerns.
Then, the spring season was supposed to begin at home Feb. 13 against Howard Payne, but weather postponed that game, moving the home opener back by three weeks.
Photos courtesy of TARLETON STATE FOOTBALL, UMHB ATHLETICS & HARDIN-SIMMONS ATHLETICS
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