For the third consecutive week, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets will challenge a nationally-ranked opponent and reigning tri-champion of the American Southwest Conference as the No. 19 East Texas Baptist Tigers conclude a daunting run at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets (0-6, 0-3), still seeking their first victory of the season while trying to halt a eight-game skid overall, are coming off losses to No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor (59-10) and No. 9 Hardin-Simmons (54-15) the previous two weeks.
“It’s tough because it can be a little defeating, but it’s also a great measuring stick and a great reminder week in and week out of where we have to get to and where we have to be,” HPU first-year head coach Hunter Sims said of the current three-game stretch. “If you can get one of those games you can show the kids and they can see what we can be. We went down there two years ago and it was a phenomenal ending for us, so we’d like to repeat some of that magic.”
Howard Payne won its 2014 ASC opener at ETBU by a 54-53 count, rallying from a 22-7 first-quarter deficit to stun the Tigers in their homecoming game.
To perform an encore this season, the Yellow Jackets will need a better performance than the one displayed in last week’s 39-point loss at Hardin-Simmons, which drew the ire of Sims.
“The reason I was so upset directly after the game is we probably had about a 15-minute stretch, midway through the second quarter and to start the third quarter, where the kids weren’t doing what we asked and giving us everything they had, and that’s the first time all year,” Sims said. “I wanted to stop that before it even starts and let them all know we’re frustrated. That’s not who we are and what we’ve been about.
“Hardin-Simmons is really good and showed why they should be ranked No. 9 in the nation, but we didn’t play with out best effort, and what I’m concerned about now is the effort we put out. If they’re trying their hardest we can go from there.”
The Tigers (5-1, 1-1) are coming off their first loss of the season, 59-22 to Mary Hardin-Baylor last week, but ETBU still averages 52 points and 582 yards — 363 passing and 219 rushing. Defensively, the Tigers are yielding 34 points and 454 yards — 302 through the air and 152 on the ground.
“They go really fast, up tempo, probably most similar to Texas Tech if you’re going to compare them to somebody people would know,” Sims said. “What they care about doing is going fast, pushing the tempo, and they’ve matched up their defense with that a little bit. Their defense is good, but it’s not total all-out blitz, man-to-man all the time. They’re kind of a bend but don’t break defense and make the other offense earn it.
“What we’d really like to do is control the time of possession this game and get them to play our style and if we can do that we’ll be in good shape. If we have to play their style of football it could be a long day for us.”
Offensively, ETBU is led by quarterback Dru Smith, who has completed 137 of 218 passes for 1,744 yards with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions. Leading receivers include Chase Sojka (53-796, 6 TDs), Richard Johnson (23-403, 8 TDs), Xavier Gray (22-365, 4 TDs), Derrick Ledet (15-183, TD), Jauque Kuykendall (11-130, TD) and Dominic Haggerty (10-66, 2 TDs). The ground attack is anchored by Jourdan McNeill (564 yards, 12 TDs), Day’Lonzo Freeman (273 yards, 2 TDs) and Haggerty (146 yards, 3 TDs).
Defensive standouts for the Tigers include Ty Parsons (53 tackles, two sacks, two fumble recoveries), Caleb Taylor (46 tackles, 3.5 for loss), Zackary Biles (37 tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery) and Dylan Bowman (32 tackles).
Howard Payne counters with an offense that generates 18 points and 306 yards — 154 rushing and 152 passing — per game, while surrendering 39 points and 456 yards — 307 through the air and 149 on the ground. The Yellow Jackets have also committed 16 turnovers, while taking the ball away 11 times.
Offensively, quarterback Caisson Montieth has connected on 64 of 134 passes for 828 yards with six touchdowns and nine interceptions, while Trey Potter has completed 5 of 15 attempts for 80 yards with one touchdown and two picks. Montieth (466 yards, 2 TDs) continues as HPU’s leading rusher trailed by Justin Acosta (190 yards, TD) and Shannon Warren (169 yards, 3 TDs). Primary receiving threats include Adrian Finley (11-150), Derrick Williams (10-269, 3 TDs), Warren (9-93) and Acosta (9-59, TD).
The Howard Payne defense is spearheaded by Jason Disney (77 tackles, one fumble recovery), Patrick Hunt (51 tackles, one for loss), Dylan Hudson (41 tackles, one fumble recovery), Austin Kilgore (30 tackles, three for loss, one sack) and J.T. Estes (30 tackles, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries).
“We want to control the ball offensively and get first downs. That’s all I’m really worried about,” Sims said. “Defensively, we have to try to keep them from getting the first first down of each series, create three-and-outs, because with them being a tempo offense, they can’t get in rhythm if they don’t pick up their first first down. They want to get on a roll, keep you on your heels and make you play a base vanilla defense so they know where you’re going to be at.”
With HPU completing its string of games against the upper echelon of ASC squads Saturday, a victory at East Texas Baptist could provide a boost going into a closing stretch of much more favorable match-ups.
“It would really propel us into the last three weeks of the season with McMurry, Sul Ross and Belhaven coming up,” Sims said. “More than anything, it would be a confidence booster for the guys and everyone in the program. It would be great for us to get the win because ETBU is a big conference opponent as well as a nationally-ranked team. We could be able to look back and say that’s where we really got it going.”
ASC FOOTBALL STANDINGS
W L W L
Hardin-Simmons 3 0 6 0
Mary Hardin-Baylor 3 0 6 0
East Texas Baptist 2 1 5 1
Sul Ross 2 1 3 3
Louisiana College 1 2 3 3
McMurry 1 2 2 3
Belhaven 0 3 1 5
Howard Payne 0 3 0 6
Howard Payne at East Texas Baptist, 6 p.m.
Hardin-Simmons at Mary Hardin-Baylor, 1 p.m.
Sul Ross at McMurry, 6 p.m.
Belhaven at Louisiana College, 6 p.m.
Oct. 15 Results
Hardin-Simmons 54, Howard Payne 15
Mary Hardiin-Baylor 59, East Texas Baptist 22
Sul Ross 21, Louisiana College 14
McMurry 56, Belhaven 7