PINEVILLE, La. — Howard Payne held the Louisiana College Wildcats 17 points below their season average, but the Yellow Jackets had their poorest offensive output of the season in a 35-7 loss to open American Southwest Conference action here Saturday.
The Yellow Jacket defense recorded six sacks and turned in a couple of defensive stands deep in their own territory during the first half as Howard Payne trailed just 14-7 at intermission. But the HPU (0-4, 0-1) offense never found a rhythm, while Louisiana College did as the Wildcats (3-1, 1-0) were able to pull away over the final two quarters.
“I’m really proud of our team and the product we put out there,” said HPU first-year head coach Hunter Sims. “Our defense played extremely well on a short field for the majority of the game. We still have to be able to put two halves together and also have more timely offensive possessions.”
Howard Payne was limited to 175 yards of total offense — 110 rushing and 65 passing on 8 of 22 attempts with a pair of interceptions. Louisiana College finished with 561 yards — 366 through the air and 195 on the ground — as the Wildcats ran 86 plays to the Yellow Jackets’ 60.
Quarterback Caisson Montieth completed 8 of 18 passes for 65 yards with two picks and was sacked twice, but still led the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 41 yards. Ivy Smith added 25 yards on the ground and Shannon Warren rushed for 23 yards and HPU’s only touchdown. Aroldo Nandin was the only Yellow Jacket with multiple receptions, catching two passes for 21 yards. Smith also chipped in a 20-yard catch.
For Louisiana College, Easton Melancon completed 28 of 48 passes for 366 yards with two touchdowns, while Aurren Cooksey added 201 yards on the ground and a pair of scores. Lamar Carroway led all receivers with eight grabs for 104 yards while Farron Jones caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown and Shedrick Davis finished with two catches for 79 yards with a trip to the end zone.
Defensively for HPU, Jason Disney tallied 13 tackles and forced a fumble; Patrick Hunt recorded 10 tackles; Austin Kilgore added seven tackles with a sack; Isaac Sanchez notched six tackles and 1.5 sacks; Collin Wright chipped in four tackles and a sack; Douglas Irby finished with three tackles and an interception; and Abner Reyes contributed three tackles and a sack.
The Yellow Jackets stopped Louisiana College’s first drive at the HPU 9 when J.T. Estes recovered a Cooksey fumble.
Louisiana College netted its first points with 1:04 left in the first period on a 13-yard touchdown toss from Melancon to Jones.
HPU’s next drive stalled at the LC 32, and the Wildcats marched to Yellow Jacket 19 before Irby picked off a pass and returned it to midfield.
The Yellow Jackets could do nothing with the ball and punted it away, as Louisiana College marched 96 yards in seven plays with Melancon connecting with Davis for a 70-yard touchdown with 6:01 left in the half.
Howard Payne scored its only points with 1:23 left in the half on a 6-yard Warren run, which capped a 10-play, 60-yard trek.
On LC’s first possession of the second half, HPU blocked a 27- yard field goal.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 21-7 on an 80-yard Cooksey run with 48 seconds left in the third.
In the fourth, LC scored on a 3-yard Cooksey run and a 1-yard Nick Julien carry.
Next week, Howard Payne hosts Mary Hardin-Baylor (4-0, 1-0) — coming off a 66-3 win over McMurry — at 1 p.m. Saturday.