SILVER CITY, N.M. - The No. 3 Tarleton Texans outscored Western New Mexico 27-7 in the second half to put a stamp on their second consecutive undefeated regular season and Lone Star Conference Championship.
Tarleton battled through one of the most grueling road trips in the country over the last two games - nearly 2,700 miles and over 40 hours of travel in the last 10 days - to close out the regular season with a flawless mark for the third time in school history and second straight.
Ben Holmes found Zimari Manning on the first offense play from scrimmage for a 75-yard touchdown strike to get the Texans on the board Saturday. It was a the first of four touchdowns on the day for Holmes, which tied a career high, and also set the new single-season mark for touchdowns in a season - passing Cliff Watkins' mark of 29.
Tarleton found itself trailing after the opening quarter, but quickly reversed course with a one-yard touchdown run from Ryheem Skinner. It was the first of two rushing scores from Skinner on the day. The 14-10 lead held up until the final seconds of the opening half when Western New Mexico added a touchdown on a fumble return to send the Texans into the half trailing for the first time this season.
Out of the break, the Texans were back to their normal selves as Tarleton got back-to-back big touchdowns from Brant Bailey and Manning. Bailey snatched a loose ball off a tip from Cam Lewis and rumbled for a 70-yard touchdown and then Manning scored from seven yards out to cap off a 10-play, 75-yard drive and give the Texans a 27-17 lead.
After the Mustangs found the end zone for the final time, Tarleton put the game away with a 61-yard touchdown from Holmes to Manning and the game-clinching 49-yard romp from Skinner.
Holmes enjoyed a career day passing, completing 19-34 attempts for 451 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those scores went Manning's way as the senior wideout hauled in six passes for 196 yards and three scores. Lewis just missed 100 yards receiving with 94 yards on five catches.
Skinner led the rushing attack with 67 yards and two scores on nine carries. Defensively, Ronnell Wilson led the way with eight tackles for the game.
Tarleton is currently ranked No. 1 in the South Central Region, which would line them up for a first-round bye when the NCAA postseason starts next week.