(Brownwood) – Texas Lutheran football looks to rebound from last week’s 33-30 loss to No. 5 Hardin Simmons with a road victory over the Howard Payne Yellow Yackets on Saturday at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood.
The Bulldogs are 4-3 in Carl Gustafson’s first season as head coach and take a 4-2 American Southwest Conference record into Saturday’s matchup.
Howard Payne, coached by former TLU defensive coordinator Braxton Harris, dropped to 1-6 overall and 1-5 in the ASC with a 52-15 loss to Sul Ross State last Saturday. The Yellow Jackets have dropped three straight since notching their only win of the season, 45-37 over Belhaven on Sept. 30.
Howard Payne hopes that Harris’s familiarity with the Bulldogs plays a role in what otherwise looks like a statistical mismatch. The Yellow Jackets have scored the fewest points in the ASC this season (17.9) and allowed the most (52.9). HPU ranks last in the conference in total offense (284.7) and eighth in total defense (489.1)
Texas Lutheran, on the other hand, is scoring 31.6 points per game, averaging 426.7 total yards, and ranks third in the league in rushing yards (245.0). The Bulldogs have seen five individuals top the 100-yard mark in a game this season – quarterback Kyle Grona and running-backs Jordan Braden, Ian Leslie, J.C. Garcia, and Chris Monroe.
Grona is the No. 5 rusher in the conference with a team-high 506 yards and nine touchdowns (seven in the last two games), and has completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 1,162 yards, eight touchdowns, and eight interceptions to rank third in the ASC in total offense.
On the other side of the ball, TLU sophomore defensive end Manny Longoria leads the ASC with seven sacks and ranks second with 11.5 tackles-for-loss. Freshman safety James Bell is the conference leader in interceptions with four picks on the year, and sophomore defensive tackle Nwankwo Nwankwo is tied for the conference lead with three forced fumbles.
Longoria is one of nine area products who played high school football at either Seguin or Navarro listed on the active rosters for Saturday’s game. The former Panther joins ex-Matadors Travis York, Jacob Almaguer, Jason Williams-Roussell, and Tyler McCann on the TLU side. Navarro alum Jake Wright is Howard Payne’s starting middle linebacker and has 38 tackles coming in, and fellow ex-Panthers Garrett Weaver, Reed Collins, and Tyler Howard will suit up for the Yellow Jackets as well.
Howard Payne’s top offensive threat is freshman running-back Hunter Batten. He ranks third in the ASC with 610 rushing yards, averages 4.9 yards per carry, and has scored five touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets’ listed starter at quarterback, freshman Mitchell Jennings, has only completed 37.5 percent of his passes for 328 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions in four appearances this season.
Saturday’s kickoff at Gordon Wood Stadium is slated for 1 p.m. The game will air live on KWED 1580 AM and Seguintoday.com, with streaming video available at tlubulldogs.com. Pre-game coverage starts at 12:30.