The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets have had two weeks to stew over a season-opening 42-14 loss to Southern Nazarene, and they intend to take out their frustrations on the East Texas Baptist Tigers.
HPU (0-1) opens American Southwest Conference action Saturday at 2 p.m. in Marshall as the Yellow Jackets tangle with ETBU (0-2).
“As difficult as it has been to wait to redeem ourselves, I think the two weeks off was a good thing and really helpful for us in our preparation for the remainder of the season,” said HPU head coach Mike Redwine. “We played poorly against Southern Nazarene and we understand that. But the extra week gave us a week to focus on ourselves and what things we needed to get corrected without the pressure of preparing for an opponent.”
The Yellow Jackets had plenty to work on following an initial performance that featured five turnovers and poor special teams play that led to average starting field position of the HPU 47 for Southern Nazarene. “I don’t know if I’ve ever coached in a game where it went from competitive to the wheels falling off so quickly,” Redwine said. “When we left that game, I didn’t have a good feeling about the way we played in any phase. I believe we have a good football team that just played poorly and has used that experience and learned from it through film evaluation and on-the-field corrections. As painful as it was to go through and to watch, I think we’re going to be okay.”
East Texas Baptist enters the conference opener with several concerns of its own following losses of 23-0 to Trinity and 46-19 to Ouachita Baptist. First-year head coach Mark Sartain’s squad is averaging just 9.5 points and 198.5 yards of total offense per contest, while giving up 34.5 points and 435 total yards per game.
“To look at the final scores, they’ve been outscored by quite a bit, but the scores are definitely deceiving for this ball club,” Redwine said. “They’ve had touchdowns called back, they’ve fumbled into the end zone. They were only down by three at halftime to Trinity and led Ouachita Baptist early in the third quarter.”
Though the Tigers haven’t put a lot of points on the board, Redwine feels ETBU is getting closer to discovering its niche on offense.
“With a new coaching staff, it adds to the intrigue in that not only will they be running what they ran last week, but they’re also still implementing their offense and expanding it each week,” Redwine said. “We have to prepare not only for what they’ve done, but also for what they might do.”
ETBU has completed just 50 percent of its passes as a team thus far, but Thad Fortune is 25-of-46 for 206 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Rodney McLain leads the receiving corps with nine catches for 91.
Corey George has 26 of the Tigers’ 49 rushes, but for only 96 yards. No other Tiger has run for more than 18 yards.
Despite the 42 points allowed by Howard Payne in its opener, the Yellow Jacket defense surrendered just 281 yards of total offense. Mark Jimenez and Jake Dezell led the Yellow Jackets with nine and eight tackles, respectively, while Kyle Mossakowski added six tackles — including two for loss and a sack. Also, Ricky Austin intercepted a pass and Stephan Bernard recovered a fumble.
“Defensively, I felt like we played pretty well,” Redwine said. “We put our defense in some difficult field position the entire game. Their offense was starting on plus side of the field way too many times, but I think we can improve when we come in after a turnover. We can be more determined to make a quick turnaround. We also need to create more turnovers.”
ETBU’s defense is led by Darius Roberts’ 17 tackles, and 15 tackles — including four for loss — from Micah Rucker. The Tigers have forced five turnovers through two games.
Offensively, the Yellow Jackets chalked up 230 yards of total offense against SNU, but only 23 yards on the ground.
Howard Payne used four different quarterbacks, led by Johnathon Haddock who completed 13-of-25 passes for 132 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Jordan Beard caught a team-high six receptions for 84 yards, while Nice Sellers hauled in a 26-yard scoring toss.
Jeffery Jefferson accounted for the majority of HPU’s yards on the ground, rushing for 22 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
“The offensive staff has done a good job the last two weeks figuring out what things this Howard Payne team does well,” Redwine said. “We’re hoping that will give us the consistency to maintain drives, but there’s no excuse for turning the ball over like we did and that will be a key all season. We have a lot of different faces and basically every yard we made last year we lost to graduation.”
Howard Payne also had its trouble with special teams, including a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown.
“It’s difficult to simulate the live fashion of special teams in that first game,” Redwine said. “Not only do your specialists have to do well, the entire unit has to do a better job from a protection standpoint.
“It becomes real important for guys to do a good job on those units because films will get around. The special teams is partly my responsibility as head coach and we let our team down. But I think those units are ready to step up this week.”
A win Saturday would not only put the nagging memories of the opener to rest, it would also jump start the Yellow Jackets’ hopes of capturing their first conference championship since 1995.
“You always hate to say it’s a must-win game being only our second week of the season,” Redwine said. “From the focus of the conference, the longer term goal to accomplish what you want to accomplish is to beat the Hardin-Simmons or the Mary Hardin-Baylors. But the real key is to win each week and prepare for each opponent and I think our guys have done that.”
ASC FOOTBALL: Howard Payne (0-1) at East Texas Baptist (0-2), 2 p.m. Saturday — Ornelas Stadium.
2006 Result: HPU 24, East Texas Baptist 17