Four Downs: Non-FBS Week 1 featured important wins and significant injuries

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Each week during the college football season, our Non-FBS Insider provides four thoughts from last week that will be discussed across Texas heading into Week 2.

First Down: Oh, so sweet!

In a week with so many great matchups, two games stood out. It’s one thing to open against a top-ranked non-conference foe. But opening against a conference rival hits differently, especially when the winner of the Week 1 affair has a leg up on the conference race.

No. 21 Texas Wesleyan forced five turnovers in a 36-20 victory over No. 17 Ottawa (Ariz.). The win was the first for the Rams in program history against the Spirit and gives TxWes the inside track to the Sooner Athletic Conference title.

The 38th Labor Day Classic did not disappoint, with Prairie View A&M overcoming a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter before defeating Texas Southern 37-34 in overtime. The Panthers extended their win streak over Texas Southern to nine consecutive and 10 of the last 11 contests. The victory also gives PVAMU an early edge in what is expected to be a tight battle for the SWAC West Division title.

Second Down: High-profile quarterback injuries

Trinity and Mary Hardin-Baylor opened the season with challenging games on the road against top-25 opponents. To say things didn’t go according to plan is an understatement, but injuries at the quarterback position will lead the discussion heading into a critical week for both teams.

Tiger quarterback Tucker Horn was injured twice in a 34-31 overtime loss to St. John’s (Minn.). The senior from Graham suffered an apparent leg injury late in the fourth quarter. Horn returned for the next series but was injured again while fumbling the ball on the Tigers final play of regulation. Horn’s status for Saturday’s game against UMHB has not been decided, and Horn will undergo further testing this week.

By the time the fourth quarter began, UMHB was facing a 25-point deficit and had its third quarterback on the field due to injuries. A 45-22 loss to Wisconsin-River Falls seems like the least of the Cru’s concerns heading into a showdown with Trinity. Jackson Tingler took a hard hit on a sack early in the second quarter and didn’t return. Landon Howell replaced Tingler before leaving with an injury during a sack late in the third quarter. Sophomore Isaac Phe finished the game and was the final healthy quarterback on UMHB’s roster at the end of the game. 

Third Down: Debuting in style

Four coaches won in their debut with a new team this weekend. Houston Christian efficiently handled NAIA Arkansas Baptist 66-0 to give Braxton Harris his first win as a head coach since roaming the Howard Payne sidelines. Speaking of the Yellow Jackets, head coach Kevin Bachtel’s team was impressive on the road in a 17-3 win over George Fox.

UTPB raised some eyebrows across the country with a 96-0 victory over NAIA Texas College in Kris McCullough’s debut. The Falcons returned two interceptions for touchdowns and took advantage of multiple mistakes by Texas College. Marcos Hinojos Sr. had a successful head coaching debut at Wayland Baptist with a 50-14 win over North American.

Fourth Down: Texans press the Cowboys

Tarleton made a trip to Lake Charles, La., but they had no intention of gambling away a victory over McNeese. The Texans offense rolled to 554 total yards, while the defense allowed only 278 total yards in a 52-34 win over the Cowboys. The 52 points from the offense are the most for a Tarleton team during a season opener in 21 years.

Many within the program were unhappy when coach Todd Whitten was listed on the hot seat during the offseason. Whitten said at the United Athletic Conference Media Day that this was the most talented team he’s had at Tarleton since transitioning to FCS. The fact is that Whitten has done a remarkable job in Stephenville, and the Texans are one of only two FBS or FCS teams in Texas with six consecutive winning seasons.

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