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Texas Lutheran improves to 5-0 in ASC play with 27-14 win at Howard Payne

Wade Freeman (photo by Joey Dearing)
Wade Freeman (photo by Joey Dearing)
BROWNWOOD, Texas -- The Texas Lutheran Bulldogs moved to 5-0 in the American Southwest Conference with a 27-14 road win Saturday over Howard Payne.
 
The Bulldogs, 5-1 overall, jumped out to a 21-0 lead over the Yellow Jackets and held off an HPU second-half rally.
 
The Yellow Jackets closed within 21-14 with 8:43 to play in the fourth quarter, but TLU mounted an eight-play, 68-yard scoring drive to push the lead back to two scores.
 
Bulldog quarterback Wade Freeman (Richmond/Bush) scored on a 10-yard run to give to a 27-14 lead with 2:56 to play in the game.
 
Freeman threw for three scores. He hit CJ Romero for a five-yard TD in the first quarter, found Charles Robinson for a 39-yard score in the first quarter, and connected with Mason Perkins for a two-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
 
Freeman completed 16 of his 28 passes for 204 yards, and he rushed 13 times for 77 yards.
 
HPU, coached by former TLU defensive coordinator Braxton Harris, fell to 2-4 overall and to 1-4 in the ASC.
 
"We didn't play our best football game, in all three phases, and our guys know that," said Carl Gustafson, TLU's head coach. "Hats off to Howard Payne. Their kids played hard. They had a good plan versus us. That bye week that they had, they used that."
 
"But as much of a grind as it was, as tough as it was, I'm really proud of the resolve that we showed. You're not going to win every time and have it be pretty, but you find a way to win. There is something to be said for that."
 
With HPU driving deep into TLU territory in an attempt to make it a six-point game, the Bulldogs sacked HPU quarterback McGwire Martin on fourth down at the TLU 21 with 3:31 remaining in the game. Sam Guzman was credited with the 11-yard sack, but a host of Bulldogs made it the backfield to force Martin to the ground.
 
"In a close game in the fourth quarter, it really just comes down to trusting the guy next to you," said Brandon Bennett, TLU's sophomore nose tackle. "As long as the guy next to me gets the job done, that's all that matters. That's essentially how we won that game."
 
Bennett collected a sack for six yards and had three total tackles. TLU sacked HPU quarterbacks three times and had seven total tackles for loss. The Bulldogs also forced two fumbles and recovered one.
 
Daniel Enriquez, TLU's freshman safety, forced a fumble in Bulldog territory and made the recovery on the play.
 
With the turnover-on-downs after the sack by Guzman in the fourth, the Bulldogs ran the ball six consecutive times, gaining 56 yards, to run out the clock.
 
Junior back Chris Monroe carried the ball four times and gained 54 yards on the final drive.
 
Monroe, a junior, rushed for a season-best 132 yards on 20 carries.
 
The Bulldogs rushed for 269 yards as a team and carried the ball 50 times. TLU ran 80 plays and held the ball for 37 minutes, 9 seconds.
 
TLU goes for its sixth consecutive win and a 6-0 mark in the ASC when it travels to Alpine, Texas for next Saturday's conference game at Sul Ross State. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at SRSU's Jackson Field.