GEORGETOWN — The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets are in the midst of their second win streak of the season, and a .500 overall record is within reach following Saturday's 24-16 victory over the Southwestern Pirates in American Southwest Conference action.
The Howard Payne defense allowed 353 total yards, but forced five critical turnovers — including three in the decisive fourth quarter.
Offensively, the Yellow Jackets produced 421 total yards sparked by the play Kolbi Tate — one of three quarterbacks used by Howard Payne — and tailback Tauren Bradley — one of nine Yellow Jackets with a carry.
As was the case in last week's 31-20 win over Sul Ross, Howard Payne (4-5, 3-5) found itself in a tie at halftime. The Yellow Jackets then scored on a pair of fourth-quarter possessions, while Southwestern (4-5, 3-5) managed just a safety late in the game.
Knotted at 14, HPU defensive end Brady Wade forced a fumble by Southwestern quarterback Austin Emery that Britt Boler recovered at the Pirate 39 with 12:29 remaining.
The Yellow Jackets then used five plays to maneuver to the end zone, as Tate completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to DunTayviun Gross with 10:30 remaining, staking HPU to a 21-14 advantage.
Southwestern then fumbled on its very next offensive snap, with the Yellow Jackets pouncing on the loose ball at the Pirate 26. A 23-yard connection from Tate to Gross moved the ball to the 3, but the Yellow Jackets later fumbled and were fortunate to recover, which allowed Blake Phipps to boot a 32-yard field goal for a 24-14 advantage with 7:50 to go.
The Yellow Jackets allowed Southwestern to hang around as a mishandled snap on a punt attempt with 3:14 left resulted in a safety, as the Pirates trimmed the deficit to 24-16.
Southwestern's final possession of the game resulted in its third turnover of the quarter, as James Jakubowski forced a fumble following a short pass from Coleman Kerr to Anfernee Stephens, which Dylan Zeno recovered to seal the victory as HPU ran out the clock.
Howard Payne opened the scoring with an 83-yard, six-play drive in the first period as a 1-yard run by Bradley resulted in a 7-0 edge.
Southwestern drew even at 7 with 1:22 left in the first period after a 17-yard touchdown pass from Emery to Devin Shaw.
The Yellow Jackets regained the lead, 14-7, at 12:07 of the second quarter on a 3-yard Bradley run, which capped an 11-play, 85-yard trek.
The Pirates immediately answered with a 17-yard scoring toss from Emery to David Brandenburg at 9:05 of the second period to even the score at 14, where it stood until the fourth period.
HPU finished with 290 yards passing as Caleb Estes was 11 of 17 for 119 yards with one interception, Tate completed 5 of 10 passes for 110 yards with a touchdown and McGwire Martin connected on 4 of 9 passes for 61 yards.
Gross hauled in eight receptions for 105 yards, Jake Parker added six grabs for 104 yards, Thomas Williams caught four passes for 75 yards and Thomas Bryant notched two receptions for 6 yards.
On the ground, the Yellow Jackets churned out 131 yards led by 53 from Bradley, 50 from Martin, 22 from Cameron Keener and 16 from Estes.
Defensive standouts for the Jackets — who yielded a season-low 16 points — included Boler and Wade with 10 tackles apiece and Austin Killgore with eight. Boler, Zeno, and Michael Davis recovered fumbles to along with a Barnum interception.
Howard Payne will wrap up its season at home against Belhaven (2-7, 2-6) at 1 p.m. Saturday, bidding for its first .500 season since 2006.