By Dave Wagner
CMI sports writer
BLACKWATER DRAW — Tarleton State coach Cary Fowler said the Texans ran an offense not all that unlike Eastern New Mexico University’s triple-option attack on Saturday.
Senior quarterback Jake Fenske threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns, relying mostly on swing-type passes, and the 22nd-ranked Texans improved to 4-0 (3-0 LSC) with a 34-14 win over ENMU at Greyhound Stadium.
With the Greyhounds gearing up to stop Tarleton’s ground attack, Fenske found success flipping the ball to open receivers in the flat as the Texans tuned up for next week’s home opener, a showdown with No. 4 West Texas A&M (5-0, 3-0).
Fenske threw 33 passes in the first half as the Texans ran the ball only six times, yet opened a 24-7 lead.
“Actually, that’s a version of the triple-option,” Fowler said. “We probably abandoned the run a little too fast.”
ENMU (1-3, 0-1) forced turnovers on Tarleton’s first two possessions, converting the first into a 6-yard TD run from senior fullback Christian Long. The Texans tied it later in the quarter, went ahead on the first of Blake Barnes’ two field goals on the first play of the second period and eventually ran off 34 unanswered points.
The Hounds finished with a 401-398 edge in total offense, but put themselves in a terrible position with four lost fumbles before halftime.
“It comes down to penalties (13 for 114 yards) and turnovers,” ENMU coach Josh Lynn s aid. “To have four fumbles in the first half, you just can’t do that.”
Fenske found Jake Frye for scoring passes of 11 and 23 yards and Clifton Rhodes III on a 13-yard TD toss in the first half. The Texans’ only touchdown after the intermission came on backup QB Collin Strahan’s fourth-and-goal, 2-yard run early in the final period.
The Texans’ 17-point second quarter pretty much took the Hounds and their Homecoming crowd out of it.
“I thought our defense played pretty well all day,” Lynn said. “This thing could’ve been a lot worse, but they were flying around all day.”
Fowler was concerned with his team’s early turnovers, including an interception by junior linebacker Seth Bailey of Texico.
“We turned the ball over early and that gets us behind,” Fowler said. “We came back (later) and made plays, but a lot of credit goes to Eastern’s defense.”
Trailing just 10-7, the Hounds lost a fumble inside the 5-yard line early in the second quarter, then forced a punt but lost another fumble on their first play. Fenske took advantage, finding Frye in the left corner of the end zone with 8:54 left in the half.
Another ENMU fumble followed, and the Fenske-to-Rhodes TD strike gave the Texans their comfortable halftime cushion.
ENMU got its final touchdown on a 35-yard pass from junior quarterback Jeremy Buurma to junior wide-out Adrian Horton, who went up in front of a Tarleton defender to make the play in the middle of the end zone with 7 1/2 minutes left.