Azusa Pacific football’s stay in the Division II playoffs was a short one, as they fell in dramatic fashion to Tarleton State in the first round.
On Nov. 11, players and coaches of No. 24 Azusa Pacific roared in unison as they secured their second playoff appearance in three years. The Cougars were slated to take on No. 6 Tarleton State in the opening round.
— APU Football (@apufootball) November 11, 2018
Unfortunately, the results from recently renovated Memorial Stadium in Stephenville, Texas, were anything but pretty for the Cougars. The Texans tallied 579 total yards compared to 217 for Azusa Pacific. The Cougars’ running game struggled mightily, managing a net total of one yard on 22 carries. Meanwhile, Tarleton State running back Xavier Turner rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first Texan in school history to rush for 200 yards in an NCAA playoff game.
The coin flip favored Tarleton State–their first of many victories to come throughout the afternoon–and they elected to kick off to start the game. The Cougars’ opening drive ended after three plays, 59 seconds and a short 31-yard punt. The Texans responded with a similarly quick drive, but their three plays landed them 65 yards down the field into the end zone, where they took an early 7-0 lead. Quarterback Ben Holmes completed both of his passing attempts on the drive for a combined 52 yards.
Just 55 seconds later, the Texans took possession once again following another three-and-out by the Cougars. Once again, Tarleton State found the end zone behind 44 rushing yards and an eventual touchdown by Turner. Ironically, it was here that the Cougars found their first glimpse of momentum, as sophomore Brandon Jackson blocked the extra point.
That momentum continued to the offensive side of the ball for the Cougars. On their next drive, Quarterback Tyrone Williams Jr. completed back-to-back passes to wide receivers Darrell Adams Jr. and James Hubbard, respectively. The latter was a 36-yard completion that brought the Cougars to the Texans’ eight-yard line. However, a pair of holding penalties and an interception by Texans defensive back Prince Robinson spoiled the scoring opportunity for Azusa Pacific. It was the last time the Cougars would advance the ball inside the red zone for the rest of the day.
From that point on, the Texans dominated every facet of the game. Holmes finished 13 for 17 on passing attempts with 224 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Zamari Manning led the Texans with 113 yards on five catches. As a team, Tarleton State went 11 for 17 on third down conversions compared to a 2 for 12 mark for Azusa Pacific. To make matters worse, the Cougars fumbled the ball four times, leading to a significant time of possession gap of 23:54 for Azusa Pacific compared to 36:06 for the Texans.
Tarleton State will host Texas A&M University Commerce in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs on Nov. 24.