Impressive starts to both the first and second half weren’t enough to carry the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets to their second victory of the season, as the Texas Lutheran Bulldogs weathered the storm en route to a 63-21 American Southwest Conference victory Saturday at Gordon Wood Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets (1-7, 1-6) scored a pair of touchdowns in the opening four minutes, but Texas Lutheran (5-3, 5-2) regrouped and built a 28-14 halftime lead. HPU also reached the end zone on its first play of the second half to trim the deficit to seven points, but the Bulldogs answered with the final 35 points to complete the 42-point drubbing.
Howard Payne generated 328 total yards, including doubling its season average with 182 passing yards. But Yellow Jacket quarterback Mitchell Jennings was intercepted three times to go along with his two long touchdown passes, as he completed 11 of 31 attempts.
On the ground, Hunter Batten rushed for 140 of HPU 146 yards with a 79-yard touchdown.
Defensively, the Yellow Jackets surrendered 677 yards of total offense, as TLU quarterback Kyle Grona completed 21 of 32 passes for 461 yards and four touchdowns. The Bulldogs added 203 yards on the ground with Chris Monroe rushing for 72 and Jordan Braden adding 60, as both scored touchdowns.
Colton Dickerson led Howard Payne with 10 tackles followed by nine from Jorden Smith and eight apiece from Tevin Dawson and Austin Kilgore.
After holding TLU to a three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, the Yellow Jackets marched 84 yards in five plays with Jennings connecting with Edwin Godfrey on a 64-yard touchdown pass to stake Howard Payne to a 7-0 advantage just 3:16 into the contest.
Brady Wade then recovered a fumble after Grona was sacked on the second play of TLU’s second possession, and the Yellow Jackets were back in business at the Bulldog 44.
HPU wasted no time in extending its lead as Jennings found Godfrey again for a 44-yard scoring strike and a 14-0 edge with 11:09 still remaining in the first period.
Godfrey finished with two receptions, both touchdowns, for 108 yards.
From that point on, however, TLU took control of the contest.
The Bulldogs closed the gap to 14-7 on a 14-yard Monroe touchdown carry with 3:24 left in the first period, and drew even at 14 just 1:42 into the second period when Reggie Jackson caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Grona.
Texas Lutheran surged in front, 21-14, just 1:42 later as Braden hauled in a 61-yard scoring strike from Grona. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 28-14 before the half on a 56-yard pass from Grona to J.B. Brown with 5:48 to go.
The Yellow Jackets attempted to wrestle the momentum back to their side with Batten’s length of the field touchdown carry on Howard Payne’s first snap of the second half.
The Bulldogs responded in just 2:41 though, as Jackson’s 29-yard scoring reception from Grona made the score 35-21.
Thanks to HPU turnovers, TLU was able to string together three touchdowns in a span of 1:22 — a 4-yard run by Ian Leslie at 5:18, a 2-yard run by Braden at 4:44 and a 25-yard interception return by Coulton Hamby at 3:56 — as the Bulldogs’ lead ballooned to 56-21.
Texas Lutheran tacked on a final touchdown with 7:54 left on a 1-yard run by Kaleb Campbell, which capped a 13-play, 80-yard, 6:19 drive.
Next week, the Yellow Jackets visit Southwestern (4-4, 4-3), which is coming off a 21-7 loss to No. 5 Hardin-Simmons.