Tarleton State Football enters 2014 at number 24 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season 7-3 (5-1) Lone Star Conference
Despite a co-first place Lone Star Conference finish last season (tied with Eastern New Mexico), the Texans missed the playoffs in 2013. After a three-point win over Midwestern State to open the season, hopes were high for a return to playoff football in Stephenville, and those hopes only got higher after the huge, 28-point, comeback-win over conference rival West Texas A&M. Then however, over the last five games, three losses – a last-minute field goal, a two point conversion, and a blowout – dashed the Texans’ playoff aspirations.
They were one of the better passing offenses in D2 last season, and finished 12th in passing yards per game with 316. Beyond that, there wasn’t much to brag about stat-wise for the Texans.
-Aaron Doyle QB – 50/80 (62.5%), 493 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
-Jake Fenske QB – 202/336 (60.12%), 2,407 yards, 20 TDs, 10 INTs
-Jeken Frye WR – 42 catches, 419 yards, 4 TDs
-Marquis Wadley LB – 126 tackles, 8 TFL, 2 INTs, 2 FRs, 4 FFs, 1 blocked kick
-Dan Jackson LB – 54 tackles, 5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF
-Dashaun Phillips DB – 50 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT
What to Watch For
Turnover Turnaround – If the Tarleton State football team wants a shot at taking the LSC crown and returning to the playoffs, they’re going to have to figure out how to get and hold onto the football. They were 129th (out of 166 teams) in turnover margin last season, averaging -.6 per game. They coughed up the pigskin 17 times last year and failed to recover it all but six times. On defense, they forced 19 fumbles and recovered nine, but they only intercepted eight passes as a defense, while the offense threw 12 of their own. Turnover margin is an extremely telling stat in terms of discerning winners and losers over the course of a season – the bottom 50 teams in turnover percentage (Tarleton State was 37th worst) had an average winning percentage of .314, while the top 50 had an average winning percentage of .672 – more than double that of their turnover-prone counterparts. Tarleton was an exception to the rule, but they can’t expect to do that again.
Tarleton State is in an interesting position. The LSC is eminently winnable, but even winning the conference guarantees nothing playoff-wise (just ask Eastern New Mexico). If the Texans want to return to the playoffs, they’re going to have to impress some people on their way to an LSC title.
They’ll have nine opportunities to do so this season, including week two at BR6 West Texas A&M, a home game against BR13 Midwestern State, and a showdown at BR27 Eastern New Mexico, the team they split the LSC title with last season. They’ll have a couple D1 transfers on the roster to help – DB Lyndell Johnson from Oklahoma State should improve the defense that only grabbed eight picks last season, and QB Eric Mathews from Memphis should challenge for the starting spot immediately. The Texans’ biggest concern will be the linebacking corps, but if the defense improves at all, this will be another season of improvement for Tarleton State – one that might end in a playoff berth.