ALPINE — In its quest for the program’s first multi-win season since 2014, Howard Payne rallied from a second-half deficit to draw even with the Sul Ross Lobos with 68 seconds left in regulation — or so the Yellow Jackets thought.
Following an eight-play, 55-yard drive that began with 4:35 remaining and culminated with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Gage McClanahan to Jordan Bryant, HPU’s Cristian Gonzalez missed the extra point, and Sul Ross claimed its first victory of the season, 28-27.
Saturday night’s loss was the second by one point this year for Howard Payne (1-6, 1-5), which fell at home to Belhaven, 20-19, on Sept. 29 as the Blazers scored the decisive touchdown with 20 seconds remaining.
The Yellow Jackets led 7-0 and 14-7 before Sul Ross (1-6, 1-5) scored the final two touchdowns of the first half to move in front, 21-14, at halftime. Howard Payne then drew even at 21 before the Lobos surged in front ahead — for good.
Howard Payne generated 353 yards of total offense — 251 passing and 102 rushing — with three interceptions. Sul Ross finished with 366 yards — 230 through the air and 135 on the ground — with just one turnover on a lost fumble.
McClanahan connected on 22 of 34 passes for 251 yards with two touchdowns and three picks, as DunTayviun Gross grabbed nine passes for 67 yards while Eric Haverstock hauled in seven receptions for 127 yards and a score. Thomas Williams finished with four catches for 24 yards, while Bryant added two grabs for 33 yards and a trip to the end zone.
On the ground, Kaidrion Latson manufactured 43 yards and a touchdown while Brett Martinez rushed for 23 yards and a score.
For Sul Ross, Williton Grear rushed for 112 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Fabian Baeza completed 20 of 33 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown. Byron Jones pulled down six catches for 106 yards, while Keondre Strong added six catches for 71 yards and a score.
Britt Boler tallied 11 tackles, including two for loss and a sack, to pace the HPU defensive effort. Tevin Dawson added nine tackles, Brady Wade finished with eight and a fumble recovery and Connor Day and Tray Baker both notched seven tackles.
After a scoreless first period, Martinez reached the end zone on a 5-yard carry 1:40 into the second period to give Howard Payne a 7-0 edge following a six-play, 67-yard trek.
Sul Ross answered with a 19-yard scoring toss from Baeza to Strong, but 2:25 later Howard Payne was back on the board as Latson’s 7-yard carry ended a four-play, 43-yard drive and pushed the Yellow Jackets back in front, 14-7.
Jones then returned the ensuing kick 89 yards for a Sul Ross touchdown, as the Lobos drew even at 14 with 6:15 left in the opening half.
With 2:45 to go in the second period, Sul Ross snatched its first lead, 21-14, on a 39-yard sprint by Grear.
The second half began with a seven-play, 72-yard drive for HPU that ended with a 15-yard scoring hook up between McClanahan and Haverstock.
Sul Ross responded on its first drive on the third period, as Grear again scored from 18 yards out to give the Lobos a 28-21 edge with 9:20 left in third.
Neither team scored again until Howard Payne’s touchdown with just over a minute left.
The Yellow Jackets will attempt to halt their five-game skid next week as they take to the road again to face Texas Lutheran (5-2, 4-2) — which is coming off a 58-14 loss to Hardin-Simmons — at 1 p.m. Saturday