Off to their best start since 2014, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets ran into the No. 7 Hardin-Simmons Cowboys Saturday afternoon at Gordon Wood Stadium, where their bid for a 3-0 record was stonewalled.
The Cowboys scored six touchdowns in the first half and built a 29-point lead at intermission en route to a 63-20 triumph over the Yellow Jackets.
Howard Payne (2-1, 1-1) gave up 623 yards of total offense — 353 rushing and 270 passing — while the offense slowed down from its torrid pace of the first two weeks, generating 323 yards — 178 through the air and 145 on the ground. The Yellow Jackets were without a turnover until Saturday, when they committed two.
Hardin-Simmons (3-0, 2-0) was allowing just 5 points and 149 yards per game on average, while Howard Payne was producing 52 points and 582 yards.
Two-time ASC Offensive Player of the Week Caleb Estes completed 16 of 31 passes for 178 yards with a pair of touchdowns and one interception for HPU. Thomas Williams caught four passes for 79 yards with a touchdown, DunTayviun Gross added four grabs for 19 yards and a score and Jake Parker also caught four passes covering 29 yards.
HPU's ground game was led by Cameron Keener, who rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Hirt added 35 yards, Shannon Warren tacked on 23 and Kaidrion Latson finished with 18. Leading rusher Billy Reagins missed the game due to an injury.
For Hardin-Simmons, Coleman product Jaquan Hemphill piled up 198 rushing yards and a pair touchdowns, while quarterback Brennen Wooten completed 15 of 27 passes for 270 with five touchdowns — including one to Hemphill — and two interceptions. Kevi Evans led the way with six catches for 127 yards and a trip to the end zone, and Rae Millsap caught five passes for 46 yards and scored once.
Connor Day finished with 11 tackles and two interceptions for the HPU defense, while Zeno Barnum amassed eight tackles, Dylan Zeno contributed seven and Britt Boler tallied four and the Yellow Jackets' only sack.
The Yellow Jackets struck first, needing just 3:33 to light up the scoreboard as Estes connected with Williams on a 55-yard touchdown during a free play as Hardin-Simmons had jumped offsides.
Hardin-Simmons responded with the next four touchdowns to establish a 28-7 advantage with 10:32 left in the first half. Wooten hurled scoring tosses of 37 yards to Evans, 22 yards to Jayden Coleman and 13 yards to Millsap, and Hemphill followed with a 37-yard touchdown run.
The Yellow Jackets closed the gap to 28-13 with 8:02 left in the half as, facing fourth and inches bunched up at the line of scrimmage, Estes pitched the ball wide to Keener who sprinted 46 yards to the end zone.
The Cowboys tacked on two more scores before the half ended as a 7-yard carry by Hemphill, along with a 5-yard run by Gatlin Martin on a successful fake field goal attempt put Howard Payne in a 42-13 hole at halftime.
Hardin-Simmons also notched the first points of the second half on a 41-yard pass from Wooten to Cale Nanny at the 11:08 mark of the third quarter, increasing the lead to 49-13.
Howard Payne recorded its final touchdown with 7:17 left in the third as Estes connected with Gross on a 17-yard scoring toss.
The Cowboys chalked up two more touchdowns in the fourth period on a 25-yard pass from Wooten to Hemphill, and a 4-yard run by Kolby Youngblood with 1:36 left on the clock.
The schedule gets no easier for Howard Payne next week as the Yellow Jackets visit reigning national champion Mary Hardin-Baylor at 6 p.m. Saturday.