The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets outscored Southwestern Assemblies God, 18-7, in the first half of their season opener, and Austin College by a 14-0 count in the second half last week — both of which ended up as one-score losses.
First-year head coach Hunter Sims is now looking for the Yellow Jackets to piece together a complete four-quarter performance as Howard Payne ventures to Greg Sherwood Memorial Stadium in Plainview at 2 p.m. Saturday to face the Wayland Baptist Pioneers.
“Both a bright spot and a negative is we’ve played four great quarters this season,” Sims said. “We played two outstanding quarters at Austin College in the second half and below our standard in the first half. We virtually did the same thing in the first game. We played two outstanding quarters in the first half against SAGU and below our standard in the second half. That’s been our arch-nemesis.”
The Yellow Jackets (0-2) and Pioneers (1-1) have split their four meetings, as HPU dropped a 34-24 decision a year ago. Howard Payne is coming off losses to SAGU (27-21) and Austin College (19-17), while Wayland Baptist won its opener over Lyon College (37-14) and fell to the Yellow Jackets’ American Southwest Conference rival Sul Ross (48-27) last week.
“This starts what I would call our homecoming dance,” Sims said. “We have four or five homecoming games this year, including our own. It’s Wayland’s homecoming so they’re going to be amped up and ready to play. This game is always tight and they’re going to be ready to go. I have the utmost respect for their head coach Butch Henderson. His son, Rick, was actually in our program for four years. I know he runs a first-class program and that’s the way he trains his kids so they’ll be disciplined and ready to play.”
A better start to Saturday’s contest — after falling in a 19-3 hole at Austin College last week — is among the primary goals for the Yellow Jackets.
“We were on the road and we were sluggish the first half, so we have to find a better way to come out on all cylinders to start the game,” Sims said. “If we had done that last week, we would have been in a lot better shape. It is refreshing to know that our guys can start off not playing so well and rebound from that. That’s something I’m not sure they could have done last year, so it gives me some and those guys some hope, knowing they can bounce back from a slow start.”
Howard Payne enters the contest averaging 19 points and 316 yards — 191.5 passing and 124.5 rushing — per game with seven turnovers.
Quarterback Caisson Montieth has completed 32 of 61 passes for 383 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for a team-high 107 yards and a touchdown. Justin Acosta has chipped in 94 yards on the ground and six catches for 31 yards and a score. Leading receivers include Derrick Williams with eight receptions for 202 yards and two trips to the end zone, while Adrian Finley has grabbed seven catches for 90 yards.
“Last week we played well and had really good drives in the second half and if we can do that the whole game we’ll be in great shape,” Sims said. “We need to have a better efficiency on first down and average more than 4 yards per play on first down. We also want to shoot for at least five explosive plays, which is 20 yards or more. Last week we had four and a fifth one would have been critical had we got it at any point.”
The Wayland Baptist defense is yielding 31 points and 381 yards — 205 rushing and 176 passing — but the Pioneers have forced 10 turnovers in two outings.
Defensive standouts include Michael Nealy (15 tackles, one for loss), Alden Mann (14 tackles, two for loss), Brandon Sheppard (13 tackles, one for loss), Zac Hollingworth (12 tackles, three for loss), Dontay Raglin (11 tackles, one for loss) and Travis White (10 tackles, two for loss, one interception).
On the flip side, the Pioneers generate 32 points and 327 yards — 172 on the ground and 155 through the air — with seven turnovers.
Starting quarterback Mitchell Parsley (16 of 25 for 220 yards with two touchdowns and one interception) was injured in last week’s game against Sul Ross and replaced by Payson Bain (11 of 24 for 76 yards with one touchdown). The ground game is anchored by Jerrell Peterson (155 yards), De’Sean Johnson (129 yards, 2 TDs) and Preston Woodard (60 yards, TD), while Trey Rowe (10-150, 2 TDs) and Woodard (4-43, TD) are the top receiving threats.
“Offensively, we’re not really sure what to expect,” Sims said. “Their quarterback got hurt last week but we all expect him to play. They’re pretty good up front and have an NAIA All-American left guard in Brandon Grant. He’ll be a guy that we want to be able to get on top of and we know if we’re able to do that we’ll be in pretty good shape with everybody else.
“They have three talented running backs that are probably better than the two running backs we’ve seen so far, so that’s what we are gearing up to stop. Trey Rowe is their most explosive receiver. They’re a 10 and 11 personnel team so they’ll be in the gun playing two by two for the most part.”
The Yellow Jackets defense has yielded 23 points and 419.5 yards — 265.5 passing and 154 rushing — per game on average, while forcing seven turnovers. HPU held Austin College scoreless in the second half last week and allowed just one touchdown in the first half of Week 1.
Top defenders include Jason Disney (26 tackles, one fumble recovery), Patrick Hunt (15 tackles), Dylan Hudson (12 tackles, one fumble recovery), Britt Boler (12 tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery), J.T. Estes (10 tackles, two interceptions, one fumble recovery), Justin Asuncion (eight tackles, one sack) and Kris Mack (seven tackles, one fumble recovery).
“We didn’t give up a point in the second half which I think is a major feather in your cap this day and age in college football, to shut somebody out for a whole half,” Sims said. “We just have to execute our game plan and not worry so much about what they’re doing. I think that’s what we did so well in the second half, we concentrated on us and not so much the other team.
“If we can improve on our first down efficiency defensively and limit the explosive plays we’ll be in good shape.”
On the injury front, the Yellow Jackets could have a few more players at their disposal at Wayland Baptist.
“We might get a couple of guys back but they’re still on the bubble,” Sims said. “That’s the hard part playing on the road for us. We have to turn the class attendance list in on Thursday so we almost have to make up our mind completely by Thursday if they’re going to play. In a lot of causes, the way that football is played two days can do a student-athlete a lot of good to be ready on Saturday.
“We’re just trying to be smart about this because this is our third game and then we’re going into a bye week. We’re wavering on that line that if a couple of guys don’t play they have two weeks to get better going into conference. But I think a win would be the best thing for us as a program going into the bye week.”
ASC FOOTBALL STANDINGS
W L W L
East Texas Baptist 0 0 2 0
Mary Hardin-Baylor 0 0 2 0
Hardin-Simmons 0 0 1 0
Belhaven 0 0 1 1
Louisiana College 0 0 1 1
Sul Ross 0 0 1 1
McMurry 0 0 0 1
Howard Payne 0 0 0 2
Howard Payne at Wayland Baptist, 2 p.m.
Texas College at McMurry, Noon
Belhaven at Huntingdon, 1 p.m.
Hardin-Simmons at SW Assemblies of God, 6 p.m.
Arizona Christian at Sul Ross, 6 p.m.
Linfield at Mary Hardin-Baylor, 6 p.m.
Texas Lutheran at Louisiana College, 6 p.m.
Southwestern at East Texas Baptist, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 10
Austin College 19, Howard Payne 17
East Texas Baptist 85, SW Assemblies of God 23
Sul Ross 48, Wayland Baptist 27
Southwestern 24, McMurry 17
Mary Hardin-Baylor 56, Texas Lutheran 21
Louisiana College 49, Texas College 18
Wisconsin-Whitewater 59, Belhaven 13