The results have been nothing short of incredible.
Twenty-one straight regular season wins.
Sixteen consecutive Lone Star Conference wins.
Thirteen straight wins at home.
Back-to-back outright LSC titles.
For all its amazing accomplishments, Tarleton has been named the Dave Campbell’s Team of the Week.
“It’s very difficult to go two years in a row without losing a conference game and to have a perfect record in the regular season. That’s a tough task and a tough journey,” Tarleton head coach Todd Whitten said. “That makes it even more rewarding. I couldn’t be more proud of our coaching staff and our players and all they have accomplished this season and last season.”
The road to such amazing numbers, however, has been anything but easy for No. 3 Tarleton.
“A lot of hard work. Many, many hours and a lot of days and hours on the road recruiting. Our philosophy is to cast a wide net,” Whitten said. “We take very little vacation during the summertime and there’s a lot of things happening in Division II recruiting in the summertime.
“It’s a year-round process in Division II and the recruiting calendar in D-II allows you to be out and be active and be recruiting a good portion of the year. We will have to learn a new method when we move to Division I.”
When Whitten says that his staff casts a wide net, he is not kidding. The Texans have players from New York, California, North Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama, Illinois and New Jersey on the roster.
“We look at high school kids, junior college kids, Division I transfers, transfers at any level and we look at kids who have not played football for a year or two for different reasons, so we truly turn every stone and that requires a lot of work,” Whitten said.
Whitten has always resisted taking credit for the program’s success. When he became the all-time leader in wins as a head coach at Tarleton, he was quick to spread the credit.
“During the last four years, our coaches and myself have worked many long hours and we’ve put together a good group of football players,” Whitten said. “To the players' credit, they’ve come in and worked hard.
“They’ve bought into our culture and what we ask them to do and our players have been outstanding in the way they’ve gone through the process of becoming a team, playing together and building a positive culture.”
The Texans are not ready to rest on their accomplishments, though. They earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Division II playoffs and want to end their final year in D-II with a national title in McKinney.
While a national title is the ultimate goal, Whitten, his staff and his players will only focus on one game at a time while appreciating the rewards they have earned thus far.
“It’s very rewarding. I’m so excited for our kids and it’s a chance to show them that hard work brings about success,” Whitten said. “It’s all about the players. They have worked so hard and done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
Tarleton was the top seed in every regular-season release of the regional rankings but was replaced by Minnesota State-Mankato when the brackets were revealed on Sunday afternoon.
“They just want to go out and play. They know that No. 1 is better than No. 2 obviously, and they know that a week off could’ve been helpful to rest a little bit. “We’ve never had a week off, so we don’t know the difference. The last two years we’ve played every week.
“Our guys are very competitive, and they’ve only lost once in the last two years so it kind of felt like a loss, but we’re excited to be playing and playing at home.”
The bracket revealed early challenges on the road to a possible national title thanks to a change that NCAA Division II implemented for this year’s postseason play.
Gone are the days of Super Regions and every team being seeded. Now, the top four teams from each region are seeded while the remaining three teams in each region will be placed in a region, and against an opponent, that best limits travel expenses.
This change will typically hurt teams in the LSC and that is evident by the first-round game between LSC rivals as the Texans host No. 21 Texas A&M-Commerce on Saturday.
“If we prepare and we play well on Saturday, we are as good as any team in the country and I think our kids have proven that, but we also learned how tough that journey is so getting to go through that was valuable for our football team,” Whitten said.
Another challenge for the Texans is a possible return trip to Mankato, Minn. where they were leading at halftime before a massive snowstorm hit and Tarleton eventually lost to the Mavericks.
Whitten believes last years’ experience will not only motivate his team but has provided plenty of positives to make a run this season.
“We had a lot of positive lessons, but the biggest lesson may have been the confidence we gained and sometimes you just have to realize that you belong and that you’re good enough to get it done.”
Tarleton has the talent to end its season holding its first national championship trophy in program history, but the Texans will focus on winning one game at a time.
“You take what comes your way then you go out there and play ball on Saturday and see what happens,” Whitten said.
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