Around the ASC: Hardin-Simmons wins OT thriller vs McMurry, Howard Payne, Sul Ross State, UMHB pick up double-digit victories

Saturday’s action in American Southwest Conference play provided us with four quality matchups as all eight teams battled across the Lone Star State. Here is a summary of how those matchups unfolded in the ASC in Week 6 of the 2023 season. 

Hardin-Simmons survives–barely–in crosstown showdown with McMurry

Abilene’s final crosstown showdown with Hardin-Simmons and McMurry as conference foes played out in perhaps the most unpredictable way on Saturday night. In an overtime thriller, heavily-favored Hardin-Simmons snuck past McMurry, 19-16. 

The battle in Abilene was not anticipated to have such a narrow margin of victory, especially with McMurry having lost at UMHB, 50-9, two weeks prior. But in a low-scoring defensive battle, the Warhawks of McMurry remained in contention for all four quarters, before HSU pulled it out in overtime on Colton Marshall’s two-yard touchdown run. 

The first quarter went scoreless for all but the final 20 seconds, as HSU capped a 13-play drive with Noah Garcia’s 20-yard run that put the Cowboys up, 6-0. The PAT was no good, and as it turned out, field goal kicking played a notable role in the outcome of the contest. 

McMurry gained its first lead less than three minutes into the second quarter on Drew Hagler’s six-yard rushing touchdown, but HSU erased the advantage just minutes later, as K.J. Peoples found his way into the end zone on a pass from A.J. Hawkins. 

It was not until the 2:18 mark of the third quarter that McMurry countered, as both defenses stepped up in the early minutes of the second half. Kristopher Martin pulled in a 58-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jess Hoel, electrifying the home crowd at Wilford Moore Stadium, who was hoping to see McMurry defeat HSU for the first time since 2011. 

It almost happened, too, as the game was pushed into overtime after McMurry dramatically blocked HSU’s field goal attempt at the end of regulation. It was not the first time the Warhawks had done so, as they also blocked a field goal as time expired in the first half, keeping HSU’s lead at 13-6. 

The blocked field goal forced the game into overtime, as the excitement in the stadium rose with each play. McMurry settled for a 36-yard Jared Mendoza field goal at the end of its first overtime possession, and HSU did the same. But moments after HSU kicker Grayson Bearden converted the field goal, McMurry was called for “leaping”, a penalty typically called when an opposing player jumps over the center or uses a teammate to gain a height advantage of some sort. 

That penalty gave HSU an automatic first down and the ball on the 10-yard line. And the Cowboys took advantage, running the ball three straight times with Marshall’s two-yard run sealing the deal, allowing HSU to escape with a victory in tow. The contest could just have easily gone the other way. 

Statistically, HSU was the stronger team, as the Cowboys tallied 24 first downs to the Warhawks’ 11, and had 413 yards of offense compared to McMurry’s 294. But McMurry made key plays in crucial situations, such as the blocked field goal at the end of the second quarter that kept HSU from scoring, and the fourth down stop of HSU’s offense with the ball on the McMurry 27-yard line. 

HSU and UMHB now sit tied atop the ASC standings with a 2-0 league record, as three weeks remain until the two face off on Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. in Abilene. 

Sul Ross State rolls to road win, earns third consecutive victory

After edging Texas Lutheran on a game-winning field goal last weekend, Sul Ross State (3-2) prevailed in a much more comfortable fashion on Saturday, defeating Austin College (1-4), 49-7, on the road in Sherman, Texas.

The Lobos were remarkably strong defensively against the ‘Roos, limiting Austin’s offense to just nine first downs and 183 yards of offense. Austin converted on just 18 percent of its third downs (3-of-17), while SRSU’s offense gained an early 21-0 lead. 

The Lobos scored in the game’s opening quarter, thanks to a spectacular special teams play from Vicent Luevano. With 2:11 in the first, Luevano caught a punt at his own 26-yard line, and raced 74 yards into the end zone, with a punt return touchdown that gave the Lobos a 7-0 advantage. A pair of rushing scores from quarterback Andrew Martinez and Rodd Hudson’s touchdown run capped SRSU’s first-half scoring, as the Lobos led 28-7. 

SRSU shut out Austin in the second half, and added to its advantage at the same time. The Lobos have now won three straight games for the first time since 2016, when they won a third consecutive contest on Oct. 22, beating McMurry, 35-21. 

Howard Payne holds off ETBU for first ASC win of the season

ETBU came within eight points, but Howard Payne ultimately pulled out a 14-point win in Brownwood on Saturday afternoon, bouncing back after last weekend’s seven-point loss to Hardin-Simmons. 

The Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the opening quarter, thanks to a pair of Landon McKinney touchdown passes. That advantage widened to 20-0, as McKinney found Gus Charles for a nine-yard score with 7:18 left in the second quarter, continuing HPU’s passing success. An ETBU safety made it 22-0 as halftime approached. 

But ETBU fought back in the second half. The Tigers countered with a 14-point third quarter, as quarterback Cornelius Banks scored on a 17-yard rushing touchdown with 10:18 left in the third and then completed a 15-yard pass to Devin Phillips with 35 seconds left in the quarter. 

That second score cut the deficit to 22-14, but McKinney’s fourth touchdown pass of the day extended the lead back to double-digits for the Yellow Jackets. Charles caught a 45-yard strike that made it 28-14, and though the Tigers aimed to stay in contention, an HPU interception midway through the fourth quarter halted the momentum. 

Both quarterbacks threw for over 200 yards, with Banks completing 20-of-41 passes for 224 yards for ETBU, and McKinney going 22-of-33 for 363 yards. 

UMHB comes out of bye week with strong performance at Texas Lutheran

UMHB’s offense racked up 522 yards of total offense, maintaining balance between the rushing and passing attack, as The Cru rolled to a 55-21 win over Texas Lutheran in Seguin on Saturday. 

Big plays from Durand Hill, Ozias Wright, and Jerry Day contributed to UMHB’s success in all facets of the game, as the Crusaders improved to 2-3, and won their second straight ASC matchup. 

The Cru opened the game with a quick, 10-play drive that featured a number of short passing plays, culminating with Isaac Phe’s first touchdown pass of the day to receiver Jerry Day. The Cru soon added to that lead, as Jack Bruner pulled off a fake punt, sprinting down the sideline for a 20-yard gain. One play later, the Phe-to-Day connection brought about another score, and Kenneth Cormier’s strong rushing performance on UMHB’s third offensive drive put UMHB in front, 21-0. 

By halftime, UMHB led 34-7, with Durand Hill’s pick-six highlighting the second quarter. The Crusaders added a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter, and extended the advantage to 55-7 as the fourth quarter drew to a close. 

But TLU found its way into the end zone twice in the final minute, as Caden Bosanko completed a touchdown pass to Yawanathan McKenzie with one minute left in regulation. Then UMHB lost the ball on the ensuing kickoff return, giving TLU possession on the UMHB 31-yard line. On the game’s final play, Bosanko tossed his second touchdown pass to the back left corner of the end zone, resulting in the 55-21 final. 

Read more about the victory in Riley Zayas’ postgame story from Seguin

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