After narrow misses the last three weeks, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets finally brought their five-game losing streak to an end with a 31-20 homecoming victory over the American Southwest Conference rival Sul Ross Lobos Saturday afternoon at Gordon Wood Stadium.
With the win, Howard Payne (3-5, 2-5) has notched multiple conference victories in a single season for the first time since 2013. The Yellow Jackets are also just a win away from matching their best overall record since posting consecutive 4-6 marks in 2013 and 2014.
Tied at 10 at halftime, the Yellow Jackets scored three touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half to seize control of the contest.
The Yellow Jackets took the initial possession of the third period 75 yards in just five plays as Billy Reagins scored on a 6-yard carry to put HPU up for good, 17-10, at the 13:10 mark.
The next drive for Howard Payne covered 59 yards in six plays as quarterback McGwire Martin connected with DunTayviun Gross on a 6-yard scoring toss that extended the lead to 24-10 at 8:11 of the third.
With 4:55 left in the third period, Kaidrion Latson capped a five-play, 48-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge that padded the cushion to 31-10.
Sul Ross (3-4, 3-4) answered HPU's third straight touchdown with a 35-yard Jaden Brown field goal at 3:45 of the third to trim the deficit to 31-13.
But the Lobos didn't reach the end zone in the second half until 4:54 remained in the game on a 14-yard pass from Fabian Baeza to Dre'Chon Moody.
Sul Ross struck first just 2:47 into the contest as Williton Grear scored on a 3-yard run to cap a seven-play, 65-yard drive. Grear left with an injury in the second period after amassing 63 yards on 11 carries, and the Sul Ross offense never recovered.
The Lobos finished with 297 yards of total offense — 159 passing and 138 rushing — and two turnovers. The 20 points surrendered by Howard Payne was the fewest this season. Stephen Darden and James Jakubowski led the Yellow Jackets with seven tackles apiece while Michael Davis contributed six including 3.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. Brady Wade recovered the fumble while Jarret Brown recorded the interception.
Down 7-0 early, Howard Payne's first drive ended with a 26-yard Blake Phipps field goal at the 6:25 mark.
Then, after holding Sul Ross to a three-and-out, HPU needed just one play to grab the lead as Martin connected with Thomas Williams on a 46-yard touchdown toss, putting the Yellow Jackets in front, 10-7, at the 5:49 mark of the opening frame.
Sul Ross accounted for the final points of the first half with 20 seconds left in the first period, as Brown's 28-yard field goal evened the score at 10.
The Yellow Jackets had chances to regain the lead in the second period, but a fumble at the Lobo 5 and a blocked field goal on a 27-yard attempt foiled those opportunities. Howard Payne made up for the miscues in the second half en route to finishing with 452 yards of total offense, including 358 through the air.
Martin completed 14 of 16 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns while Caleb Estes was 4 of 8 for 59 yards. Gross pulled down five receptions for 101 yards, Williams added three for 110 yards, Eric Haverstock hauled in four receptions for 51 yards and Jake Parker contributed three catches for 49 yards. Leading the way on the ground were Reagins with 32 yards, Latson with 23, Martin with 22 and Cameron Keener with 13 yards.
The Yellow Jackets visit Southwestern (4-4, 3-4), which is coming off a 49-23 loss to East Texas Baptist, at 1 p.m. Saturday seeking two-game win streak.