Defense Ignites No. 8 John Tyler’s 30-12 Season-Opening Victory Over Plano
TYLER -- For a half, neither offense seemed all that interested in Friday night's season opener. It took a defensive play early in the third quarter to open the floodgates.
Bryston Gipson's 50-yard interception return for a touchdown -- the first of his two defensive scores -- got John Tyler on the board, and the eighth-ranked Lions carried that momentum all the way to the finish line in a 30-12 victory over Plano at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
John Tyler (1-0), after being held without a point and limited to less than 100 total yards in the opening half, put together two scoring drives down the stretch before Gipson's 20-yard fumble return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter sealed the win.
"I love my defense," said Gipson, a junior cornerback. "We've been practicing for two weeks, getting up at 5 o'clock in the morning for this game right here. We deserve this win."
It was a dominating effort from the John Tyler defense, which limited Plano to just 206 total yards -- nine in the first half. Aside from a 75-yard touchdown run by Plano running back Brandon Stephens and a 10-play scoring drive early in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats were held in check.
"The main thing about us coming into the 2014 season … we said we wanted to be a better run-stopping team," said John Tyler coach Ricklan Holmes. "That has always been our Achilles heel for the last several years with all the great defenses that we've had. We really just couldn't stop anybody running, and we knew that going into this season, to accomplish all the goals that we put on ourselves, we're going to have to be able to stop the run. And this was the first test tonight."
After John Tyler lost a fumble on its first possession of the second half, Plano quarterback Quinn Waterbury attempted a screen pass, but Gipson was ready, picking off the pass at midfield and racing untouched to the end zone for the game's first points.
"It was one receiver and one back, so I saw the screen coming," Gipson said. "But the running back never looked back for it, and I saw hit my hands and it was pick-six after that."
Stephens, a 2016 recruit who already holds offers from Ohio State and Wisconsin, broke free on the first play of Plano's ensuing drive and dashed 75 yards to paydirt. The extra-point attempt failed, leaving John Tyler ahead 7-6 with 8:56 remaining in the third quarter.
John Tyler's offense drove deep into Plano territory two possessions later, but had to settle for a Luis Duran 27-yard field goal, which pushed the Lions' lead to 10-6 with 1:08 showing on the third-period clock.
JT scored touchdowns on its next two drives. Jeremy Wilson, who led JT on the ground with 70 yards on 15 carries, scored from 5 yards out. Following an impressive Plano scoring drive, which ended on Waterbury's 15-yard touchdown pass to Matt Kirchner, the Lions extended their lead to 23-12 with 5:23 remaining on a 21-yard scoring strike from Geovari McCollister to Duntayvion Gross.
Plano converted on fourth down on the ensuing series, but on first-and-15, Waterbury fumbled the snap and Gipson scooped up the loose ball and dashed 20 yards into the end zone, which put the game out of reach with 3:57 to play.
"He's building off 2013, the last game -- our playoff loss," Holmes said of Gipson. "That was the best game he had all year, and we lost. I told him going into the offseason 'you've got to build on that, you've got to get better each week and each day.' And that's what he's been doing. He had a great offseason; he ran track, went to the regional track meet, got stronger, got bigger. So he understands what he needs to do."
McCollister finished the game 22-of-31 passing for 226 yards and a touchdown. That came after he was sacked four times and threw for only 51 yards through the first two quarters.
"We minimized the mistakes, made sure we held onto the ball and didn't put ourselves in a predicament to where we're not being successful and not doing what we do, or letting them dictate what we do," Holmes said of his offense's second-half adjustments.
John Tyler's Rodney Bendy, a 2015 North Texas commit, finished with five catches for 59 yards, Gross had four receptions for 49 yards, Nick Cain caught a team-leading six passes for 37 yards, and sophomore Bryson Smith came down with three receptions for 35 yards.
Stephens was Plano's lone bright spot on offense, finishing with 94 yards on 10 carries. Waterbury was 7-of-10 passing for 96 yards in relief of starting quarter Brooks Panhans, who was injured midway through the second quarter.
The Wildcats fumbled seven times -- losing three of them -- to go with the costly interception. Plano was also penalized 13 times for 110 yards.
John Tyler is back in action next Friday at Longview, having won just its fifth season opener in the last 15 years.
"Defensively I think we got better than we were at this time last year," Holmes said. "Offensively we are better, but we really didn't show that tonight with the mistakes that we made."
No. 8 John Tyler 30, Plano 12
Trinity Mother Frances Classic
At TMF Rose Stadium, Tyler
Plano 0 0 6 6 -- 12
John Tyler 0 0 10 20 -- 30
JT--Bryston Gipson 50 interception return (Luis Duran kick), 9:09.
PLA--Brandon Stephens 75 run (kick failed), 8:56.
JT--FG Duran 27, 1:08.
JT--Jeremy Wilson 5 run (kick failed), 10:48.
PLA--Matt Kirchner 15 pass from Quinn Waterbury (kick failed), 6:29.
JT--Duntayviun Gross 21 pass from Geovari McCollister (Duran kick), 5:23.
JT--Gipson 20 fumble return (Duran kick), 3:57.
First Downs 9 18
Total Yards 206 311
Rushes-Yards 31-95 33-85
Passing Yards 111 226
Comp.-Att.-Int. 8-14-1 22-31-0
Punts-Avg. 8-34.8 4-36.8
Fumbles-Lost 7-3 3-2
Penalties-Yards 13-110 8-45
RUSHING--Plano, Brandon Stephens 10-94, Byron Tate 3-10, Lopaka Yoro 3-6, Parker Meyers 1-(-3), Quinn Waterbury 9-(-3), Brooks Panhans 5-(-9). John Tyler, Jeremy Wilson 15-70, Geovari McCollister 16-11, Nick Cain 1-2, Pierre Leonard 1-2.
PASSING--Plano, Waterbury 7-10-1--96, Panhans 1-4-0--15. John Tyler, McCollister 22-31-0--226.
RECEIVING--Plano, Matt Kirchner 3-31, Meyers 2-47, Ryan McConnell 1-15, Stephens 1-10, Sam Tecklenburg 1-8. John Tyler, Cain 6-37, Rodney Bendy 5-59, Duntayviun Gross 4-49, Bryson Smith 3-55, Wilson 2-16, Tommy Dyer 2-10.