By Todd Coley–
The preseason polls had Tarleton picked to win the Lone Star Conference this year and so far in the season, things look a little shaky in Stephenville for the Texans. After starting the season with a win over no. 11 West Texas for the first time in Canyon in 10 years, the season appeared on the right track. After two close losses to Florida Tech at AT&T Stadium and rival Midwestern State here in Stephenville followed with a big loss at A&M Commerce, hopes for a conference championship are still alive and well at Tarleton.
In reference to the adversity this team has to overcome, Head Coach Cary Fowler said, “We’ve been here before so it’s not an issue. We played the no. 1 strength of schedule as it was last year; we have the toughest schedule in the country. With our nine conference games, we’re going to play the top teams in the country and you’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some.”
Fowler feels the team knows how to deal with adversity quite well because of what it has already gone through as a team.
“Adversity is burying their secretary this summer,” Fowler said. “Watching Chance Strong be paralyzed and trying to walk again and watching their teammate several years ago get injured in practice and pass away,” he said.
The Texans still have a great chance at making the post season due to the conference tournament where they will have to play teams for a second time. “This thing is going to get real physical,” Fowler said. “You’ve got to play everybody, then you have to turn around and play them in a tournament. You know, you’re going to have to play these guys twice. This thing’s going to get real interesting and it’s going be the most healthy team that wins.”
When it comes to homecoming here at Tarleton, Fowler loves the activities put on by the school during the week. “Tarleton State has one of the greatest traditions that I’ve been around in college football,” he said. “You start with the festivities going on all week and the things that you have to be a TSU student or with the staff or administration to understand what it means to have homecoming here. Our kids embrace it.”
Senior offensive lineman Lucas Love talked about homecoming traditions at Tarleton as well. “Always the pancakes, the late night pancakes when you’re a freshman and all the rest of them are down there, you go do that,” he said. “All the traditions here–you just can’t not be a part of it. It means a lot more to you when there’s a lot of stuff like that going on and you know you got so many people pulling for you.”
When pressed about his favorite of the events, Love named yell contest. “I like watching all that and I’ve been here so long, I know a lot of people that are in that stuff,” he said. “It’s cool to watch them go out there and do something they’ve worked hard on.”
The favorite homecoming event of Coach Fowler’s is the snake dance. “The Plowboys unleash on that baby on that first one. I get pumped up because they go off and beat those things and then bring a new one in,” he said. “That’s my favorite part.”
As far as what the team enjoys most about homecoming, Love said, “The crowd and just coming home and playing and not having to ride on the dang bus. Really for us, it’s another game for us. Every game needs to be our biggest game and that’s the way we look at it as players so really, it’s just another game.”
Even though Kingsville currently sits at 1-4 on the season, the Texans still have to treat the game like any other opponent. “It doesn’t matter to us,” Fowler said. “Last year we were in a dog fight down there. Since 2008, the home team has lost in every game in the Kingsville Tarleton battle. I haven’t beat Kingsville in our stadium; they haven’t beat us in theirs. So they’ll get those stats to understand what Kingsville does. Kingsville has a good football team; they are young.”
When it comes to the rest of the season, Fowler and his team still feel good about winning the conference. “We’re still striving to win the conference and to get into the playoffs,” Love said. “You take losses like that and all you can do is put it behind you and try to take the good things and learn from the bad things and just keep going.”
Fowler added, “It’s still the same. You got to win the conference championship. It changes because you got to win the conference championship and the tournament, I believe, to get in. Somebody in our league is going to get in—our league is too good right now.”
He also said, “Our whole focus in life is eye on the one, this moment, this breath, this day and we’ll handle it, we’ll get up and attack it the next day. The two wasted things in life is yesterday and tomorrow. You’ve got to attack today and live for today and do everything you need to be a champion today.”
The Texans host A&M Kingsville Saturday at 6 p.m. in Memorial Stadium.