With two victories — including last week’s 56-7 thrashing of Bacone — under their belts, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets will now attempt to avenge a shutout loss from a year ago and open American Southwest Conference action with a win for the first time since 2006.
The Yellow Jackets (2-0, 0-0) will host the Sul Ross Lobos (0-3, 0-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in a rematch of last season’s 17-0 Howard Payne loss in Alpine.
“It’s nice to get off to a 2-0 start, but the real season starts Saturday and we all know that,” said HPU head coach Steve Fanara. “We understand it’s the conference opener and to accomplish the goals we’ve set, we have to win the first one and that starts Saturday.”
Howard Payne and Sul Ross have played several memorable games in recent years — headlined by the Lobos’ 60-56 win in Alpine in 2006 — and the Jackets are anxious to avenge last season’s loss.
“There are certain teams you don’t need motivation to play, and Sul Ross is one of those teams,” said Fanara. “We still have a bad taste in our mouths from last year’s Sul Ross game. We didn’t play horribly against them, we just couldn’t get into the end zone.”
The Yellow Jackets have had no problem getting into the end zone this season as HPU is averaging 39.5 points and 374.5 yards of total offense per game.
Quarterback Zach Hubbard leads the HPU offense as he has completed 42-of-64 passes for 562 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
Edward Cody leads all receivers with 10 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, while Tre Mason has chipped in seven catches for 153 yards with a score. Corbin Young has also tallied seven receptions for 66 yards.
The Yellow Jackets are averaging just 63 yards rushing per game, though, but hope to get the ground attack in gear against a Sul Ross defense that has surrendered 480.3 total yards — and 334 rushing yards — per outing.
“We’re going to continue to look at ways to rush the football,” said Fanara. “We’ve had some success on the perimeter, but we need to get it going between the tackles.
“We’d also like to get the ball to (reigning ASC freshman of the year) Tre Mason, he’s a key part of the offense, but there’s nothing wrong with throwing the ball to 10 different guys. It’s nice to be able to rely on other guys and spread it around a little bit.”
Defensively, the Jackets are giving up just 165.5 total yards — and only 37 yards rushing — per game, while allowing just 12 points.
Kevin Reyna leads HPU with 21 tackles, followed by 13 from Dustin McClure and 12 each from Aaron Martin and Joey Lewis. Lewis has also recorded five tackles for loss, notched 2.5 sacks and intercepted a pass from his defensive end position.
The Jackets’ run defense will receive its toughest test to date as Sul Ross has shifted to the flex bone as its base offense.
Lobo quarterback Dominique Carson leads the team with 306 yards rushing and four touchdowns, while fullback Cameron Holliness has chipped in 291 yards rushing and three scores.
“They ran the ball 39 times last week (in a 33-20 loss to East Texas Baptist) and 30 carries were by the quarterback and fullback pretty much split down the middle,” said Fanara. “It’s a triple option offense, but two of the three options, the quarterback and fullback, we have to stop. It all starts with the fullback with them.”
Fanara also stated the Jackets must guard against trick plays in the special teams game.
“Sul Ross has some gadgets,” Fanara said. “They run the swinging gate on kicks, and they will run something out of it. They also run the star burst on kick returns and they’ve had some decent gains on that.”