PORTALES, N.M. - The Texan offense struck early and often while the Tarleton defense put on a dominant display against the nation's top rushing attack in a 49-10 thumping of Eastern New Mexico in Portales Saturday night.
With the win, the No. 4-ranked Texans improve to 6-0 on the season and will return home for the 2019 homecoming game against the No. 20-ranked Texas A&M-Commerce Lions in a rematch of last year's NCAA second-round playoff game. Tarleton and Commerce will kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday in Stephenville.
Saturday night's affair with the Greyhounds was well in hand from the get-go.
Ben Holmes connected with J.F. Thomas for a 65-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage. On Eastern New Mexico's ensuing possession, Jordan Wells ripped the ball away from Paul Terry in the backfield and rumbled home for a six-yard touchdown to give the Texans a 14-0 lead just 33 seconds into the game.
After the Greyhounds got on the board with a field goal, Tarleton took its next two possessions down the field - very quickly - to extend the lead to 28-3. Daniel McCants scored Tarleton's third touchdown of the game - his first of three on the night - from five yards out and then, less than two minutes into the second quarter, Zimari Manning scored from six yards out.
McCants' five-yard run capped off Tarleton's longest drive of the night - eight plays in 2:40. No Tarleton scoring drive last longer than three minutes.
After the Greyhounds scored their only touchdown of the game, Tarleton stormed down the field in 1:48 - covering 91 yards on eight plays and capping with a wide-open touchdown toss from Ben Holmes to Zimari Manning. It was Manning's second of the night and 21st of his career, which moved into fourth place all-time at Tarleton.
Out of the halftime break, Tarleton's defense led to two more Daniel McCants touchdowns on the first four drives of the half.
Benjie Franklin picked off Wyatt Strand to open the new half and then McCants scored from three yards out to extend the lead to 42-10. On the ensuing Greyhound drive, the Hounds botched a pitch and B.J. Jefferson jumped on it to turn it back to the offense. McCants scored from six yards out, two plays later, to bring the game to its final score.
Holmes led the offense with 259 yards passing and three touchdowns on a 218.3 passer rating. J.F. Thomas was hit favorite target with six receptions and 155 yards receiving and the game-starting touchdown. Zimari Manning hauled in four passes for 65 yards and two scores.
McCants led the way on the ground with 86 yards and three scores while Ryheem Skinner closed out the game with 68 hard-fought yards on the ground on five carries.
Defensively, the Texans held the nation's top-ground attack to a mere 173 rushing yards on 55 carries. The Hounds entered the game averaging over 400 yards per game on the ground.
Jai Edwards led the way with 14 tackles, including eight solo stops, while Ed Hayes, B.J. Jefferson and Wells had eight tackles each. Jefferson also had 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks.