Hardin-Simmons 31, Willamette 22

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ABILENE, Texas – — ABILENE, Texas – Hardin-Simmons' 14th-ranked football team started a stretch of three straight games against ranked teams with a 33-21 win over No. 13 Willamette, in front of a crowd of 3,622 fans at the home opener at Shelton Stadium in Abilene.

In a game that featured hard-hitting and aggressive defenses from both sides, the Cowboys were able to fight off the Bearcats with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Justin Feaster to Travis Tatsch with 8:20 to play.

The Bearcats are known for their fly offense that is usually one of the top running attacks in the nation. However, WU used an over the top passing attack to stay with the Cowboys for most of the night. Scott Schoettgen was a one-man wrecking crew for the Bearcats as he had eight catches for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He had touchdowns of 78, 71 and 34 yards. HSU limited the Bearcats to 96 yards on 32 rushing attempts.

Trailing 17-9, Willamette struck first in the second half when Schoettgen scored on a 34-yard pass from Brian Widing. Willamette went for two, but the pass was overthrown and HSU remained in the lead at 17-15 with 12:43 to play.

Justin Feaster then capped a 12-play, 70-yard drive that took 5:18 off the clock with a 9-yard run at the 7:25 mark of the third. Schoettgen's 78-yard touchdown on a perfectly thrown pass between two defenders from Widing made the score 24-22 with 12:42 to play in the game.

HSU then had a quick three-and-out and Whitworth went for it on fourth down from their own 43 with 9:03 to play. Caleb Christian knocked down the pass and HSU took over. Steven Rockwell was stopped for a three-yard loss on the first play, but Feaster hit Travis Tatsch over the top for a 46-yard touchdown to make it 31-22. HSU's defense shut the door the rest of the way.

HSU took a lead it would never relinquish in the first quarter on a 2-yard Derrick Grant run to cap a nine-play, 63-yard drive with 5:11 to play in the first. WU received a 36-yard field goal from Mitchell Rowan to make it 7-3 with 11:03 to play in the half.

HSU then got a 17-yard interception return for a touchdown to make it 14-3 with 2:05 to play in the half. However, Kevin Ramay hit Schoettgen over the top to make it 14-9 and the Cowboys blocked the PAT. HSU came back and Scott Newberry hit a 28-yard field to make it 17-9 at the halftime buzzer.

Feaster shook off two first-half interceptions to go 24-of-33 for 288 yards and a touchdown. ZaVious Robbins had nine catches for 79 yards and Steven Rockwell had 54 yards rushing and Derrick Grant had 33 against a punishing Bearcat defense.

HSU's defense was pretty solid on its own. They limited the fly offense to three yards a carry. Caleb Christian led the way with nine tackles and Bronson Buzzard added eight. HSU broke up 10 passes on the night, with Jay Wise having four and Christian three.

The Cowboys now have back-to-back games with the ASC co-champions from a year ago starting with a home date with Mississippi College on Saturday at 2 p.m. HSU is 2-0 on the year and Willamette is now 1-1.