GEORGETOWN, Texas — The Southwestern University Pirates football team struggled to find any traction on offense and surrendered three touchdowns in the second half, falling 21-9 to the Sul Ross State Lobos on homecoming weekend.
The Pirates' defense dominated the first half, holding the Lobos to just 64 yards of total offense and three first downs; preventing Sul Ross State from crossing the 50-yard line the entire half.
Unfortunately, Southwestern was unable to gain any separation.
Linebacker Hayden Smith sparked the Pirate defense early, intercepting Sul Ross State quarterback Trey Johns' pass at the Sul Ross 41-yard line on the third play of the game.
Running back Elijah Smith set a hopeful tone, bursting through the right side for 19 yards on the Pirates' first offensive play. After a four-yard loss and and false start penalty, quarterback Landry Gilpin kept the drive alive on third-and-19 with a 25-yard run to the Sul Ross six-yard line.
The drive stalled with two runs for one yard and an incomplete pass, forcing the Pirates to settle for a Wil Herbst 24-yard field goal.
Southwestern forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Sul Ross State possession, stuffing all three plays at the visitor's 18-yard line. The Pirates turned up the pressure on the punt, forcing a shanked kick to the Sul Ross 34-yard line to give Southwestern excellent field position once more.
The Pirates were only able to muster one first down, however, getting an 11-yard run from Elijah Smith on the opening play of the drive before being stopped for three consecutive running plays. On second-and-eight at the Sul Ross 23-yard line, Gilpin was injured on a three-yard run, eventually leaving the Pirates with another Herbst field goal, this time from 33 yards, for a 6-0 lead.
Gilpin, the Pirates' third starting quarterback in four games, was already working under a pared down playbook as a first year. Having to turn to the fourth quarterback in as many games, Southwestern was quickly limited with what it could do within even that.
The Lobos' defense hounded first year quarterback Hank Moore like a pack of wolves, cutting him off from the option and stuffing him for 0 yards on six carriers in the half. The Pirates were equally stingy as both teams traded three-and-out possessions for half of the second quarter, leaving Southwestern up 6-0 at the break.
Injuries piled on the Pirates running game as much as Sul Ross defenders, who stacked the box with impunity. Eventually, a negative feedback loop crept into the other aspects of the game.
On the Pirates' third consecutive three-and-out possession to start the second half, Phillip Keys only got 18 yards on a punt to the Pirates' 44-yard line. Sul Ross State capitalized with a bit of trickery, scoring a 44-yard touchdown on a reverse flea flicker from Trey Johns to Dre'Chon Mo to give the Lobos a 7-6 lead after the extra point with 4:30 remaining in the third.
The Pirates lost three yards on three plays on their next possession and the Lobos broke through the Southwestern line to block Keys' punt and recover it for a touchdown, taking a 14-6 lead after the kick.
Southwestern tried to respond with some trickery of their own but wide receiver David Brandenburg's pass was picked off at the 50-yard line by Cory McMahan.
The Pirates defense held Sul Ross State to just 19 yards, forcing a 38-yard missed field goal, but only managed four yards on three plays for another three-and-out.
Sul Ross running back Williton Grear broke the game wide open on a 56-yard run on the second play of the drive, giving the Lobos a 21-6 lead with 14:08 remaining in the game.
Austin Castilleja gave the Pirates good field position with a 25-yard return on the ensuing kickoff and Moore had his best series of the game, rushing for four, five, four, 12, and four yards to put Southwestern in position for Herbst's 39-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 21-9.
Southwestern defensive back Dameon Dawson sparked some hope on the next possession, intercepting Johns' pass at the 50-yard line, but Moore was intercepted in the end zone on fourth-and-five from the 10-yard line, ending the Pirates' last threatening drive.
For the game, the Pirates managed a season-low 210 yards of total offense while giving up 279 to Sul Ross Sate, including 184 on the ground.
With the loss, the Pirates drop to 2-2 on the season and 1-2 in conference play. Southwestern will travel next week to play Belhaven on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 1:00 p.m.