For just over a half, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets appeared to be on their way to their first victory since Sept. 17, 2001. A second-half 100-yard interception return began the downfall for the Yellow Jackets, who will attempt to regroup from last week’s 27-17 home loss to Southwestern Assemblies of God as they venture to Plainview Saturday.

The Yellow Jackets (0-2) will clash with the Wayland Baptist Pioneers (0-1), who are competing in their first season of football in 72 years, at 2 p.m. Saturday on Greg Sherwood Memorial Bulldog Stadium.

“I said last week we were at the bottom of the ocean looking up and we still are,” said HPU first-year head coach Roger Geise said. “I can tell you Wayland Baptist has us circled as an opportunity for a win.  They had over 4,000 fans last week and I suspect they’ll have a bunch this week and already have a victory celebration planned. We need to prepare for them like they’re Alabama and go out and play like we did first the first quarter and a half. That was a glimpse at what we’re capable of, and if we play like that for 60 minutes, we’ll be all right.”

The NAIA Pioneers are coming off a 55-7 loss to Division II Adams State, a game in which Wayland Baptist trailed 46-0 at halftime. Over the first two quarters, the Pioneers yielded 421 yards of total offense — 314 passing and 107 rushing — and for the game WBU allowed 642 yards — 365 passing and 227 rushing.

Offensively, head coach Butch Henderson’s Pioneer squad finished with 285 total yards — 161 passing and 125 rushing — but lost five turnovers. In the first half, Wayland Baptist managed just 75 total yards and only 9 on the ground.

Kendall Roberson rushed for a team-high 69 yards for WBU, while Luis Gonzalez chipped in 49. Gonzalez was also 7 of 11 through the air for 61 yards, while Anthony Campuzano completed 17 of 26 attempts for 100 yards. Leading receivers for the Pioneers included Saul Elizalde (4-56), Trent Schuett (3-43) and Chris Acosta (3-30).

The Pioneers also faced Monterrey Tech in exhibition action in San Antonio on Sept. 1, falling by a 59-21 count.

“It’s really hard to get a handle on them,” Geise said. “It’s their first football season in 72 years. They recruited last year, but just practiced, so this is their second recruiting class. They’ve got some good players including their tailback Kendall Roberson from Lubbock, who I tried to recruit two years ago.

“I don’t know a lot about Monterey Tech other than some teams in our conference scrimmage them. I don’t know a lot about Adams State either, other than they are a Division II school. I don’t know if they’re the caliber of a West Texas A&M or Tarleton, I really don’t know.”

Among the positives from last week’s HPU loss were the Yellow Jackets’ 236 yards rushing, as well the Howard Payne run defense.

“We rushed for 236 yards and that’s been unheard of around here at Howard Payne since I’ve been here,” Geise said. “The offensive line played well and you don’t run the ball like that without good line play. Adrian Lighteard had a good game back even though he still wasn’t quite at 100 percent, but Zarron Dove also came in and did a good job. Matt Melendez also had a couple of nice runs at fullback for us in critical situations and picked up some first downs. Defensively, I thought we played pretty well and did a good job stopping the run.”

Glaring mistakes included six turnovers, which gives HPU 10 through two games, as well as 122 penalty yards as the Yellow Jackets have now been flagged 18 times for 173 yards. Both areas led to HPU’s squandered 17-3 edge midway through the second period as SAGU reeled off the final 24 points.

“The negatives are turnovers and penalties, and a lot of those penalties are totally inexcusable,” Geise said. “On Sunday we began taking about what to do to get that problem corrected short of bringing officials to the practice fields, which we can’t afford to do like they do in Division I or the NFL. We stole the concept from Oklahoma State that penalties are either going to be dumb penalties or combat penalties. There’s going to be some discipline for people who commit dumb penalties. If it’s a combat penalty, you don’t have to worry about that because certain things happen during the course of a game and we don’t want to take away the aggression. But hopefully this will deter some of that.”

Heading into Saturday’s game, the Yellow Jackets are producing 12 points and 297.5 yards — 166.5 rushing and 131 passing — per contest.

Adrian Lighteard made his season debut last week in the backfield and rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns, while other key contributors on the ground include Zarron Dove (19-94), quarterback Thomas Head (15-56) and Joseph Bell (7-24).

Through the air, Head has connected on 33 of 51 passes for 258 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, while leading receivers include Tyson Swanner with 11 catches for 92 yards and Karl Stewart with nine grabs covering 62 yards. Tristan Fuentes, Austin Murray and Dove have pulled down two receptions each, while Matt Melendez — who owns the Yellow Jackets’ lone touchdown catch of 5 yards — is one of seven players with one reception.

Defensively, the Yellow Jackets have surrendered 41.5 points and 388 yards — 307 passing and 81 rushing — per contest and forced three turnovers.

Bo Ross anchors the HPU defense with 19 tackles, including four for loss — both team highs — followed by J.D. King with 17 tackles, Jonne Warnstaff with 13 and a fumble recovery, Victor Gonzales with 12, Jeremy Masterson with 11 and a fumble recovery, Josh Eppler with eight and an interception and Tyler Troppy with eight tackles, as well.

“I want to see continued improvement and I want to see us eliminate mistakes and penalties on offense and play better pass defense,” Geise said. “I think they’re going to throw the ball, but it’s tough to get a feel of what they want to do because they’ve been behind so fast. I’m not sure if they are throwing the ball to try and catch up or because they want to be like Texas Tech’s air raid. If I’m the opposing coach playing Howard Payne right now I think I’m throwing the ball. I would test us and we need to improve back there. We’ve spent a lot of time working on that this week, we’re starting to get an idea and we’re getting better in some areas. We could also use a great pass rush up front.

“Offensively, we need to continue what we’ve been doing, just cut out all the mistakes.”

Saturday’s game will mark the final contest for the Yellow Jackets before the Sept. 29 American Southwest Conference opener at Louisiana College. Howard Payne has a bye next week.

“I think it’s important to get a win under our belts,” Geise said. “A win heals a lot of wounds and solves a lot of problems. Kids are more receptive, practices seem to go a little better and everybody’s spirits are better. A ‘W’ is just what the doctor ordered.”

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ASC FOOTBALL STANDINGS

           Conference       Overall

       W       L    W    L

Louisiana College    0    0    2    0

Mary Hardin-Baylor    0    0    1    0

East Texas Baptist    0    0    1    1    Mississippi College    0    0    1    1

Texas Lutheran    0    0    1    1

Hardin-Simmons     0    0    0    2

Howard Payne     0    0    0    2

Sul Ross     0    0    0    2

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Friday’s Game

East Texas Baptist at Williamette

Saturday’s Games

Howard Payne at Wayland Baptist, 2 p.m.

Texas College at Hardin-Simmons

Trinity at Sul Ross

Mississippi College at West Alabama

Mary Hardin-Baylor at Wesley