Hardin-Simmons vs. Sul Ross State
Sept. 7, 2019 - 6 p.m. - Alpine, Texas
Jackson Field - 100.7 FM
Inside The Series
Overall: HSU leads 36-3
Last Meeting: HSU won 48-27 in Abilene in 2018. The Cowboys led just 14-13 at halftime, but came alive with three touchdown passes from Ty Hooper in the second half to roll 48-27 on homecoming. Hooper finished with five TD passes and Reese Childress had 10 catches for 112 yards and two scores.
Streak: HSU, Won 5
Series Notes: HSU and Sul Ross State will meet for the 40th time on Saturday in Alpine...It marks just the second time the two teams will meet in the season opener...The Cowboys own a 13-2 all-time advantage in Alpine...Jesse Burleson is 7-1 all-time against the Lobos.
Setting The Scene
The Hardin-Simmons football team opens its 82nd season when it travels to Alpine to take on Sul Ross State in the season and the American Southwest Conference opener...The Cowboys have an all-time record of 470-267-35...HSU is looking for its fifth-straight season-opening win...HSU is 53-24-4 all-time in the season opener...HSU is 20-9 since bringing back football in 1990...In nine of the 10 seasons the Cowboys have made the Division III playoffs, they have won the season opener...This game marks the first time since 2004 that HSU will play a conference opponent in the opener. That year the Cowboys had to scramble to fill a 10th game after UW-Stout canceled on the Cowboys and HSU played Sul Ross State to open the season in a then-rare night game at Shelton Stadium. HSU won 79-17 in the first of two meetings with the Lobos that season.
On The Air
Hardin-Simmons Football will once again be broadcast locally on 100.7 FM. Video broadcasts with full production will be available for all home games. Most road games will have a video broadcast produced by the home team. There will be links available on www.hsuathletics.com for each game. You can also listen on your mobile phone using the HSU Athletics app. Al Pickett is in his 15th season in the Cowboys' play-by-play chair and 16th overall on the broadcast team. Former Cowboy quarterback Travis Jones will handle the color commentary duties for home games and director of athletic communications Chad Grubbs will handle the color analysis for the road games.
The Cowboys went 9-2 for the fourth straight season and lost to eventual national champion Mary Hardin-Baylor in the first round of the playoffs. The Cowboys ranked third nationally, scoring 48 points per game and allowed 21.2. HSU averaged 526.6 yards per contest. Returners Jonathan Castaneda and Rae Millsap were both named All-Americans as were Reese Childress and Chris Miller.
Jesse Burleson begins his ninth season at the helm of the Cowboys and he can move to second place on the HSU wins list with a win on Saturday. He is tied with Warren Woodson with 58 career victories. Burleson's predecessor Jimmie Keeling is the all-time leader with 181 wins.
The Cowboys went 9-2 for the fourth straight season. HSU is one of just seven teams in Division III with nine or more wins in each of the last four seasons. HSU joins that list with Mount Union, Mary Hardin-Baylor, Saint John's, Delaware Valley, Johns Hopkins and St. Thomas.
In The Polls
The Cowboys have now been ranked 46 straight weeks in the in-season D3football.com poll. HSU has been ranked inside the top 10 for 25 of those weeks and haven't been lower than No. 13 since week No. 8 of the 2015 season.
An HSU Win Would
▶ Give it five straight wins in season openers.
▶ Push Jesse Burleson's record to 40-15 against ASC opponents.
▶ Make the Cowboys 40-10 in the last 50 games.
▶ Give HSU 14 straight wins in non-conference action.
▶ Push the HSU winning streak to 23 straight games against ASC opponents not named Mary Hardin-Baylor.
▶ Make Jesse Burleson the second-winningest coach in Cowboy football history.
Call Me Captain
The Cowboys vote on their captains in the spring and name two offensive, two defensive and a special teams captain. Jonathan Castaneda and Jaquan Hemphill are the offensive captains and Blake Johnston and Hunter Creasey are the defensive captains. Jaxson Money is the special teams captain for the 2019 season.
Reloading With Veterans
When the first two-deep of the season was announced the Cowboys return only six starters that started the Mary Hardin-Baylor playoff game last season. Obviously, the Cowboys will be doing some reloading to do on both sides of the ball. The good news is they are reloading with veteran players. The Cowboys have nine players with nine or more career starts returning for 2019. HSU returns 23 players that have started at least one game in their career. Jonathan Castaneda leads the way with 30 career starts. Blake Johnston and Jaquan Hemphill have 22 starts and Dedrick Strambler has 21. Strambler will have his streak of 21 straight starts snapped with a minor knee injury that will hopefully keep him out only for a game or two.
Making The Switch
Two Cowboys that played key reserve roles a year ago have made position switches. Zai Zai Smith has moved from running back to defensive end and Zack Cedillo has moved from defensive tackle to offensive tackle and is listed second on the depth chart.
▶ The Cowboys have a balanced roster with 12 seniors in the opening-week two-deep, along with 16 juniors, 15 sophomore and one redshirt freshman.
▶ On offense, 17 of the 22 players listed on the two-deep have seen varsity action going into the season. The Cowboys will have two transfer starters and three sophomores who played on the developmental squad last season in the two-deep.
▶ On defense, 18 of the 22 players listed on the two-deep have seen varsity action going into the season. Three developmental squad players and one transfer are the only players not to play in a previous varsity game for the Cowboys.
Jesse Burleson has done a great job of retaining assistant coaches and the Cowboy coaching staff is the same for the third straight season.
Another Year, Another Quarterback
The Cowboys have a strong quarterback tradition dating back to the return of football. This year will be no different as the Cowboys have several quality quarterbacks. Transfer Brennen Wooten will get the nod to be the Cowboys' 10th different starting quarterback to start the season opener in the last 10 years. He is one of six Cowboy quarterbacks that fought for the job in fall camp. Returners Peyton Killam, Marc Reed and Quay Stokes and transfers Bryse Salik (SW Baptist) and Kyle Jones (Mary Hardin-Baylor) all bring a different skill set and could be used.
▶ The Cowboys' offense is led by ninth-year offensive coordinator Jeff Whitehead. His teams have averaged 41.8 points and 476.4 yards per contest in his first eight seasons as the coordinator.
▶ HSU is coming off a season where it ranked fourth nationally with 48 points per game and fifth nationally in total offense with 526.6 per game. HSU was one of just two teams in Division III last season that averaged more than 250 yards per game rushing and passing. The 48 points per game were a school record.
▶ The Cowboy running game should be a strength of the team. Jaquan Hemphill is back after injury a year ago and his replacement Bryson Hammonds proved to be a very valuable back as well. Hemphill ran for 675 yards in just three games and one series a year ago. He was leading the nation at over 11 yards per carry when he went down. Hammonds had an even 1,000 yards over his final six games of the year and all six games were 100-yard efforts. No Cowboy running back has ever matched those numbers over a six-game span. He finished the year with 1,181 yards rushing and 13 TDs and added 298 yards and four scores receiving. Hemphill comes into the season with 2,585 yards and he needs 1,404 yards to break Matt Carroll's school record for career rushing yards. He also needs four rushing touchdowns to break Lance Moore's record in that category.
▶ The Cowboys must replace three-time All-American Reese Childress as a go-to receiver. Matthew Sandoval is back as a third-year starter and he has moved inside to the slot. Sophomores Rae Millsap and Kevi Evans, who had standout freshmen seasons, are taking over on the outside. Millsap, who was named an All-American as a kick returner, had 11 catches for 233 yards and two scores in a limited role on offense. He did lead the team with 21.2 yards per catch. Evans played more snaps at receiver and he had 30 catches for 507 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman. The backups on the depth chart are talented, but mostly unproven on Saturdays.
▶ The offensive line is relatively new. Ben Donahue and Juan Martinez have all started some games and Jonathan Castaneda is a four-year starter. Transfer Zach Mack gives the Cowboys some size at tackle at 6-4, 320 and Zack Cedillo moved over from the defensive line. Elias Berkel steps in at center and Hayden Day has played a lot of snaps at tight end, gets his first shot as the starter.
▶ The Cowboys are led on the defensive side of the ball by Zach Wilkerson, who is in his sixth year coordinating the defense. HSU has had one of the top defenses in the ASC and 2019 should be no different as the Cowboys return a lot of talent on all three levels.
▶ Hunter Creasey is back for his senior season and he has 15 career sacks. He needs 10 sacks to break the school record held by Scott Forbes and Ryne Lewis. Ironically, Lewis and Creasey are both from Georgetown and Creasey has changed his number this season from 96 to 31, which was Lewis' number at HSU. Creasey also has three career blocked kicks, which is tied with four other Cowboys for the school record. Creasey had 12 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks a year ago to pace the Cowboys.
▶ Kyle Zavala has made the move to defensive end and should be a force for the Cowboys' defensive front. He had 11.5 tackles for loss and five sacks from his defensive tackle slot last season.
▶ The Cowboys will have three new starters at linebacker and two of them will be sophomores. Matt Girard had 15 tackles in a reserve role as a freshman and Terrell Franklin came on strong at the end of the year last season. Junior Cameron Hanna has moved to the strong safety spot which is the Cowboys' hybrid safety/linebacker. The second group of Kelton McGee, Zach Goodson and Bohner Cottongame have all played significant snaps as well.
▶ The secondary is experienced and also very talented. Blake Johnston and Dedrick Strambler are back for their third seasons as starters at free and weak safety respectively. Strambler will miss some time early in the season and fellow senior Logan Breton will get the start at weak safety. Breton has played plenty of snaps in his career.
▶ At corner, the Cowboys return starter Jeffrey McCutcheon on one side and redshirt-freshman David Wilson is on the other. Wilson moved quickly up the depth chart last season and played in the first two games before missing the rest of the year with an injury.
▶ Strambler led the Cowboys with five interceptions a year ago and has nine for his career, which ties him for eight place on the Cowboys' all-time chart.
Special Teams Notes
▶Junior kicker Jamie Pogue is back and will handle the kickoffs and placements. He was 67-of-72 a year ago on PATs and went 5-of-8 on field goals. The 67 PATs were a school single-season record and he finished one point shy of the school record for points in a season by a kicker with 82.
▶Bryson Hammonds is going to handle the punting chores for the Cowboys. He also is going to be the punt returner.
▶Rae Millsap and Kevi Evans will be the kickoff returners. Millsap was an All-American kick returner after averaging 33.5 yards per return on 16 returns last year. He had a pair of touchdowns. Evans also returned his only kickoff 89 yards for a score.