CLEVELAND, Miss. – and the Delta State University (4-2, 2-1 GSC) football team would not be denied Saturday, Oct. 19, as the redshirt freshman quarterback led the Statesmen to a 38-36 upset victory over No. 14 Tarleton State University (5-1, 4-0 LSC) at Parker Field-McCool Stadium, as nailed a 33-yard game-winning field goal with 7.0 seconds remaining.
The victory snapped a seven game road winning streak for the Texans and put the Statesmen back on the winning track heading into the final stretch in Gulf South Conference play.
After trading opening possessions in the game, the Texans took possession on their own 21 following a Delta State punt and put together an impressive 16-play driving to the Delta State10-yard line. The Statesmen defense stiffened forcing a Tarleton State field goal by sophomore kicker Blake Barnes giving the Texans a 3-0 lead with 7:12 remaining in the first quarter.
The Statesmen quickly answered with a 71 yard drive which saw Delta State redshirt freshman quarterback , making the first start of his career, complete five successive passes, the last one hitting sophomore receiver for a 14 yard touchdown strike giving the Statesmen a 7-3 lead with 4:13 remaining the first.
On the following possession the Texans put together another impressive drive. Taking possession at their own 21, the Texans drove 79 yards on 16 plays ending in a one yard dive by quarterback Jake Fenske giving Tarleton State a 10-7 lead with 13:36 remaining in the second.
The Statesmen were forced to punt on their next possession giving Tarleton State possession on its own 18. On the third play of the Texan drive, Statesman defensive lineman sacked Texan quarterback Aaron Doyle causing a fumble that was snatched up freshman defensive back Chris Norman and returned three yards for a Statesmen touchdown giving DSU a 14-10 lead with 11:10 left in the first half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Tarleton returner Bubba Tandy raced 61 yards to the Delta State 30. A DSU personal foul tacked on another 15 yards giving the Texans possession on the DSU 15. Four plays later, Fenske found receiver Andre Plata for a four yard touchdown giving the Texans a 17-14 at the 9:48 mark.
On the next Statesmen possession, junior quarterback Mo Fennel fumbled giving Tarleton State possession on the Statesmen three yard line. Texan quarterback Aaron Doyle dove in on the next play from scrimmage giving the Texans a 24-14 lead that they carried into halftime.
In the first half, the Statesmen gained 13 first downs on 209 yards of total offense. Sullivan completed 19-28 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown and junior receiver had five receptions for 45 yards.
The second half started much as the first as the Texans and Statesmen traded possessions before DSU took possession on its own 20 yard line following a Tarleton State punt with 10:23 left in the third quarter. From there, Sullivan engineered a 7 play, 80 yard drive ending in a 52 yard scoring strike to junior receiver cutting the Texan lead to 24-21.
The Statesmen defense rose to the occasion, forcing the Texans to punt on their next two possessions. With 2:55 remaining in the third, the Statesmen took possession on their own 20. Sullivan once again looked sharp, completing passes of 24 yards to Osborne and 43 yards to Hunt, before finding senior tight end Reed Faulkner open in the endzone for a nine yard touchdown giving DSU a 28-24 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Tarleton State was able to end its second half scoring drought on the first possession of the fourth quarter. The Texans put together a 12 play, 49 yard drive that ended with a 31 yard field goal by Barnes that cut the Delta State lead to 28-21 with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
The Statesmen answered immediately. Following the ensuing kickoff, the Statesmen took possession on their own 36 and needed just two plays an 17seconds to strike as Sullivan hit receiver over the middle for a 64-yard strike extending the Delta State lead to 35-27 with 11:25 remaining.
Tarleton State would not give up, however, as Tandy once again turned in a big kickoff return of 54 yards to the Delta State 28 yard lin3. From there the Texans took five plays before Henshaw rushed to pay dirt from five yards out. The two point conversion attempt failed and the Statesmen held a slim 35-33 lead with 7:35 remaining.
The Statesmen were forced to punt on their next possession giving the Texans possession on their own 33 with 6:42 remaining. Texan quarterback Aaron Doyle engineered an impressive drive of his own completing 7-of-9 passes and rushing for 17 yards on a 16 play drive that ate up 5:28 ending with a 20 yard field goal by Barnes giving TSU the 36-35 lead with 1:10 remaining.
The Statesmen were not to be denied, however as freshman kick returner started the drive by taking the ensuing kickoff and racing to the DSU 44. Sullivan quickly hit Osborne for 13 yards to the TSU 43 with 53.2 seconds left. Sullivan then rushed for 13 yards to the Tarleton 30, as the clock raced toward zero. Sullivan then found Osborne again for 16 yards to the Texan 16 with 11.2 seconds remaining in the game, setting up a 33-yard field goal with 7.0 seconds remaining. Freshman kicker calmly put the kick through the uprights giving the Statesmen the dramatic 38-36 victory. It was his second game-winning field goal of the season.
On the night, the Statesmen racked up 489 yards of total offense and 24 first downs on 75 plays. Sullivan, a redshirt freshman from Louisville, Miss., was 33-of-49 passing for 422 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
Bethley lead the receivers with 97 yards and a touchdown on four receptions, Hunt had 96 yards and a touchdown on four catches and Obsorne had six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. Pinkston had five catches for 45 yards.
Sullivan also led in the rushing category as well, carrying the ball nine times for 55 yards. had five rushes for 28 yards and had seven rushes for 21 yards.
Hunt and Davison combined for 154 kickoff return yards with Hunt having 90 yards on three returns and Davison with 64 on four returns, including the final return of 25 yards.
Although the Texans recorded a record 106 plays (102 plays set during the 1996 season) the Delta State defense held when it counted. The defense was led by a pair of defensive backs with freshman Jereco Beckwith and junior with an amazing 14 total tackles apiece.
It will be a short week for the Statesmen as they travel to Rome, Ga., for a Thursday, Oct. 24, night game against the Hawks of Shorter University. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be televised as the Gulf South Conference TV Live Game of the Week. It will also be featured on the Statesmen Sports Network at 5:30 p.m. with the DSU Alumni Association Statesmen Game Day Report.
Sullivan earns player of the week
Former Winston Academy standout Tyler Sullivan made his first start at quarterback for Delta State University pay off last Saturday, as he led the Statesmen to a 38-36 win over No. 14-ranked Tarleton State University of Texas.
The redshirt freshman connected of 33-of-49 passes for 422 yards and four touchdowns. All of his passing accomplishments against Tarleton were school records for both freshman quarterbacks and first-time starters.
He was named Gulf South Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Sullivan’s teammate, Trenton Warren, a senior from Bartow, Texas, tallied 12 total tackles in the upset victory with six solo stops and broke up three TSU passes to earn GSC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Two of the passes the talented cornerback broke up occurred when the Statesmen defense was backed up to its own goal line and prevented the Tarleton offense from reaching the end zone. Warren also had one interception, which was returned for 11 yards.
The Delta State University Statesmen (4-2, 2-1 GSC) travel to Barron Stadium on Thursday, Oct. 24 to face thr Shorter University Hawks (0-7, 0-4) in the Gulf South Conference TV Game of the Week. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CST. The game is a key showdown for the Statesmen, as DSU looks to stay in race for the GSC title. Statesmen Sports Network coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with the DSU Alumni Association Statesman Game Day Report. , Mark Williams, and Lane Quinton have the call.