A Christian University & Bible College in Texas (Assemblies of God)
500 Lightning Strikes During Football Game
Weather and Big Plays Impact SAGU-vs-HPU
BROWNWOOD, Texas -- A promising start and a stormy finish foiled the Southwestern Assemblies of God University football team on a night only the National Weather Service could appreciate.
Howard Payne University, who has been playing football longer than any school in the southwest, scored four, lightning quick touchdowns and cruised to a 32-7 triumph over SAGU late Saturday night.
Two and One Half Hour Delay of Game
Just 8:28 into a scoreless game, a series of lightning strikes began, forcing officials to clear the field as well as the stadium. The NCAA mandates that, should any bolts come within an eight-mile radius of the event venue, the game must be interrupted for a minimum of 30 minutes. The fulmination continued for nearly an hour in the Pecan Valley. Then, two powerful storms approached from opposite directions, merging near the stadium.
In a span of the next thirty minutes, the game official in the press box monitored the storm-front on high-tech equipment. There were indications of over 530 lightning bolts inside the radius. With thunder and rain following, the game eventually resumed after 9pm. The delay lasted over two and one half hours.
Lions Defense Shackled First Six Yellow Jacket Possessions
Southwestern's defense was impressive most of the first half. They stopped the Yellow Jackets on their first six possessions. Meanwhile the Lions offense continued to struggle, similar to its Week One performance. Upgrading productivity among wide receivers may be a focal point.
After the game resumed, it was the SAGU defense that struck, forcing its first of four turnovers.
Sophomore defensive end Ike Caston (Dallas, Tx / A+ Academy), just back from an injury, dropped into pass coverage and intercepted a Zack Hubbard pass at the HPU 41 and weaved his way all the way to the 16 yard line.
After a 12 yard scamper, junior quarterback Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Faith West HS / Texas State) rolled out on a pass-run option, and darted to pay dirt for the score. James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) added the PAT* kick for a 7-0 lead with 4:11 left in the first period.
Defensively, the Lions were creating havoc up front as well as among the linebackers. Alex Moore (Breckenridge, Tx / Breckenridge HS) forced a fumble, Quentin Holloman (Garland, Tx / Sachse HS) intercepted a pass that gave SAGU the ball at the Payne 30 and they stopped the Jackets another time on downs at the Lions' 32. Jared Hudgins (Midland, Tx / Midland Christian) had nine tackles by intermission and the Purple Pride already coaxed three turnovers.
Southwestern still owned the lead when they punted for the sixth time in the first half. HPU started on their 20 with 3:16 before the half.
That's when the real fire bolts started flashing.
Hubbard, the Yellow Jackets pre-season All-American QB, started to find his rhythm. Connecting on big plays, the thunder rolled. Four consecutive drives resulted in TD's.
Brandon Young, a 5'6 halfback, snared a high screen pass, reeling it in with one hand. Young followed a convoy of blockers down the left sideline before Hudgins and Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Juan Seguin HS) finally brought him down inside the SAGU 20 after a 48 yard dash. On the next play, Hubbard drilled a 16-yard scoring pass to Tyson Swanner, a 6'3 sophomore WR, who beat his man inside on a slant. The equalizer happened with just 1:30 left on the clock.
The Lions picked up a first down when freshman RB Eddie Bailey, Jr. (Milwaukee, Wisc / John Jay HS) sprinted 18 yards by reversing the field after a handoff. The drive then stalled on two incomplete passes. A shanked punt went 24 yards and the Jackets took over at their 35 with only 0:30 to go.
Back-to-back passes over the middle to freshman WR Andre Dean gained 21 and 42, setting up HPU at the SAGU two yard line with 0:18 left. Hubbard powered across the goal line on second effort to give them a 13-7 lead. The point after try was bobbled by the holder.
Two TD's in just 1:19.
The Power of the Pinky
During the pregame festivities, while the Yellow Jacket Band played the Howard Payne alma mater song, home fans stood, raised their right hand as well as their pinky finger while singing along. Why the little digit? "It's the stinger," shouted alums in the press box.
The electrifying Jackets demonstrated the same as they finished the half. They had 49 yards in the first quarter, but 220 in the second. Hubbard was 4-of-11 in the first, then 9-of-13 in the second stanza. Meanwhile, SAGU picked up 45 and 22.
With the passing game loosening up the Lions' stranglehold, Payne opened the third quarter and began running the ball. A 17-yard sideline pass to Swanner moved them to midfield, before Hubbard handed off on eight runs. SAGU 'Backers Dante Embry (Paris, Tx / Paris HS), Brad Heathcock (Frisco, Tx / Wakeland HS), Holloman and Hudgins along with DB's Nick Ekanem (Richmond, Tx / B.F. Terry HS) and Joey Vinson (Patterson, La / Patterson HS) made all of the tackles. Andres Anguiano (Dallas, Tx / W.T. White HS) supplied support inside.
The Turning Point
The turning point came just when it appeared the Lions defense had stiffened. They forced an incomplete pass on third and 15 from the SAGU 16. Officials, however, called a holding penalty on a Payne lineman. By accepting the penalty, the Navy & Gold Wasps were moved back ten yards to the 26. But it also gave them another chance. And they made the decision sting.
Pressured, Hubbard stepped left and fired to his left for Walter Pam, who was near the goal-line pylon. Hudgins was also there, fronting the 5'7 halfback. He went to knock the ball away with his left hand, but instead, he deflected it up and over. Pam snatched the pigskin while appearing to step back in bounds. It was ruled a TD on the fortuitous rebound. The 74 yard drive took 14 plays and nearly seven minutes off the clock.
Down 20-7, Rice brought the Lions offense onto the field for their first possession of the third quarter. On the second play he tossed the ball to Bailey, who picked up a first down, picked up steam and was looking for more. That's when Demetrius Cody, a small linebacker delivered a big hit, separating Bailey from the ball at the 42.
Strike Quick after Turnovers
Following the script that coaches often do after a turnover, Head Coach Steve Fanara summonsed lightning. He called for Cody Hambrick, a 6'1 senior wideout, to run a deep post pattern. Hubbard triggered a spiraling charge to Hambrick, who beat the safety to the ball for yet another crack of thunder. Two quick scores again, this time within 1:12 of each other.
At 26-7 and a passing attack yet to get untracked, the Lions were in a big hole.
Caston, Holloman, Ekanem Make Picks
Howard Payne continued to gain yardage as SAGU liberally substituted on defense. But not before Ekanem got the Lions' third interception off of Hubbard. What followed was a Jackets 99-yard drive in the fourth for a TD. They would have scored again on their final drive, but missed a senseless 26 yard field goal with a second to play.
Head Coach Jesse Godding brought in sophomore QB Jeremy Fowler (Caddo Mills, Tx / Caddo Mills HS) with 7:30 on the clock. Last year's starter began connecting, and drove the team inside the red zone. His 12-yard completion to Micah Burditt (Midland, Tx / Midland Lee HS) was the team's longest pass play of the game. The drive stalled when they reached the six yard line, thanks largely to a late hit call against a Lions player.
Southwestern finished with 150 yards of total offense, 88 of it on the ground. They averaged five yards a carry. As a team the Lions completed 11-of-28 passes for 62 yards.
Rice led the rushing attack with 70 yards on 11 carries. Bailey and Dylan Jensen (Georgetown, Tx / Georgetown HS) divided seven carries. Powerback Chris Eiland (Quinlan, Tx / Quinlan Ford HS) missed the game. Darion Waits (Waxahachie, Tx / Ennis HS), Burditt and Bailey each had three catches.
Hubbard wound up with 340 yards, connecting 20 of 35 passes for 3 TD's. Reid Golson, their wildcat QB, completed 7-of-8 for 123 yards and a score and ran for 44 yards. HPU had 82 offensive plays to 46 by SAGU. Payne was penalized 11 times for 95 yards to the Lions 10 for 75.
Getting Their Kicks
Southwestern's special teams had a marked increase on Saturday. Outstanding coverage by both the punting team (2.3 yds per runback) and the kickoff unit, Fowler averaged 37.2 yds on eight punts, and there were no penalties.
Defensively, Hudgins accounted for 14 tackles, including 5 solos. Vinson had six tackles, with Patrick Smith (Bluffton, SC / Hilton Head Christian), Kendall Evers (Danbury, Tx / Danbury HS) and McKinley making five stops. Five others, including four LB's, had four tackles. Heathcock and Hudgins both had a pair pass break-ups. McKinley and Moore each forced fumbles, with Joe Astorga (Dallas, Tx / W.T. White HS) recovering one.
Jaroy Carpenter, Southwestern's Head Athletic Trainer, reported there were no injuries that he expects to cause any games to be missed by players.
The contest began with temperatures in the mid 90's and a triple-digit heat index. By the time the storms passed through and the game was played, there were five hours and forty minutes of elapsed time. The attendance, at least when the game began, was 1,350.
On Deck: Trinity Bible College
Southwestern, now 0-2, plays Trinity Bible College next Saturday, September 18, at Waxahachie's Lumpkins Stadium. It will be the first-ever football meeting between two Assembly of God colleges. The TBC Lions (Ellendale, ND) lost to Mayville State University (ND) on Saturday to fall to 0-3.
Broadcasting on SAGU Sports: Live!
The contest, which starts with a noon kickoff (CST), will be broadcast in high definition, in LIVE video streaming by the SAGU Sports Network. Access can be gained on the SAGU.edu/Athletics front page, or by clicking Streaming on the SAGU home page.
A preview of the game will be posted on Friday.
*PAT - Point After Touchdown kick. Usually called the extra point.