Bulletin Staff Report
ABILENE — Close so many times before, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets finally broke into the win column in their third overtime game of the season — and ruined the conference championship hopes of an archrival in the process.
The Yellow Jackets upended perennial American Southwest Conference power Hardin-Simmons, 48-47, Saturday afternoon at Shelton Stadium, thanks in part to a pair missed Cowboy extra-points following their touchdown in the extra session.
The victory snapped a Howard Payne (1-6, 1-4) seven-game losing streak that dated back to last year’s regular season finale. Four of the Yellow Jackets’ losses this season had been by seven points or less, with two coming in overtime.
“At the end of last week we were disappointed,” said HPU head coach Mike Redwine, whose team was coming off a 34-24 loss to McMurry. “At one point you have to wonder if these guys can muster up another week of preparation after disappointing losses and then not playing well last week and hurting ourselves along the way.
“But our group of guys still come to practice and prepare, prepare, prepare for a day like today. I feel really good for our team.”
Saturday’s win also marked the first time the Yellow Jackets’ senior class had notched a victory over the Cowboys.
“I feel so good for our group of seniors,” Redwine said. “This was the one team they hadn’t beat, but they came out and got the job done. I don’t care how it happened. This is a big win against a quality program, one that was still getting votes for the Top 25 even though they had a 3-3 record.”
Jordan Bullard’s extra-point kick following Zach Howard’s 3-yard touchdown run in overtime sealed the victory for Howard Payne.
Hardin-Simmons (3-4, 3-2) scored on the first snap in overtime as Travis Watson took a 25-yard pass from Justin Feaster and raced into the end zone for a 47-41 Cowboys’ lead. Colt Williamson missed the initial extra-point attempt, but the Yellow Jackets were flagged for roughing the kicker.
“On the roughing call, we just had the wrong outside guy rushing on the play,” Redwine said. “But it worked out in the end.”
After the penalty, Williamson’s second try came from just 18 yards away. But again the kick sailed wide, which opened the door for the Howard Payne victory.
“Their kicker only attempted one field goal all season, so maybe there was a little bit of a lack of confidence for him to convert in those situations,” Redwine said. “The wind out there today was stout and extremely difficult to manage. Trying to convert every extra-point was a challenge.”
Howard Payne then started its overtime possession with a 22-yard pass play from Jason Lovvorn — who completed 29-of-43 passes for 349 yards and three touchdowns — to tight end Tau Mamea, who made his first catch of the season.
“That was also the very first play call of game,” Redwine said. “Tau jumped offsides he was so nervous, so we waited the whole game to come back to it. In terms of their initial alignment, I didn’t think the play was there. But Jason held on to the ball long enough and Tao cleared out and made the catch.”
Howard, who finished with a season-high 117 yards rushing on 21 carries, then scored his fourth touchdown of the day.
“We did some things for Zach in the double tight end formation with him as the single back,” Redwine said. “There were more plays where we could have passed out of it, but we didn’t use them.”
Howard Payne rallied to force overtime by driving 74 yards in 11 plays as Lovvorn hooked up with Nice Sellars on a 25-yard scoring toss with 3:19 left. The Yellow Jackets were penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration, but Bullard drilled the 35-yard extra-point to make the score 41-all.
“Jordan made a big kick at Mississippi College two years ago to send that game into overtime, and I think today’s kicks were every bit as big as that one,” Redwine said.
The Yellow Jackets finished with 445 yards of total offense against a Hardin-Simmons defense that was yielding 41 points and 546.7 yards of total offense per game.
Defensively, Howard Payne allowed 502 total yards, but gave up just 20 points in the second half and overtime. Quinton Jones rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns, while Feaster completed 21-of-28 passes for 329 yards and three scores.
“We made some good defensive adjustments in the second half,” Redwine said. “They were still able to move the ball, but we made them earn it. We just went with a conventional soft zone and that allowed us to keep things in front us, see the play better and come up and make tackles when they ran it.”
Hardin-Simmons built a 27-21 halftime lead, but Howard Payne struck first in the second half on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Lovvorn to Jordan Beard — who grabbed eight passes for 111 yards and two TDs — to make the score 28-27.
The teams then traded touchdowns as Jones’ 59-yard run gave HSU a 33-28 lead, but Howard answered with a 26-yard scamper that put the Jackets back in front, 34-33. Feaster’s 1-yard run and two-point conversion pass to Watson gave the Cowboys a 41-34 advantage with 8:51 remaining.
Howard Payne opened the scoring with a 46-yard Howard touchdown run just 52 seconds into the game.
Hardin-Simmons took a 14-7 lead following Feaster’s touchdown tosses of 39 yards to Justice Baker and 27 yards to Mychal Carrillo.
The Jackets received a 4-yard run from Howard to pull even at 14-all, but Jones answered with scoring runs of 4 and 14 yards to give Hardin-Simmons its largest lead, 27-14. Williamson missed the extra-point after the Cowboys’ final touchdown of the half.
Just before halftime, Lovvorn hooked up with Beard on a 22-yard scoring toss that cut Hardin-Simmons’ halftime lead to 27-21.
Howard Payne will vie for its second straight win next weekend when it hosts Louisiana College for homecoming. Game time at Gordon Wood Stadium is slated for 2 p.m. Saturday.