ARLINGTON, Texas — The first half was everything the Shorter Hawks had hoped for.
The second half, however, proved to be the same old story as the Hawks saw a 19-7 halftime lead quickly evaporate in the final 30 minutes of play as the West Texas A&M Buffaloes rallied to hand Shorter a 27-19 defeat in a Lone Star Football Festival showdown Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
The loss was Shorter’s first of the season after opening up the year with two wins, while the Buffs tasted victory for the first time after falling in their first two contests.
“We’ve got to find a way to do the right things in the second half,” Shorter head coach Phil Jones said, “and it’s our job as coaches to make sure that happens.
“We were able to do want we wanted to do in the first half,” he said, “but as the game wore on (West Texas) came back and did what they had to do and you have to give them credit for that.”
The Hawks, who rolled up 213 yards in the first half and held the Buffaloes to just 115, wound up being unable to get on track in the final 30 minutes of the game as they could only muster 21 total yards in the second half.
In their first three games of the season, Shorter have only scored seven points after halftime and is being outscored by opponents 64-7.
Shorter opened the game putting together an impressive 13-play, 68-yard drive, running 7:20 minutes off the clock and ending it on a fourth-and-goal situation from inside the one when senior quarterback Eric Dodson found an opening on the right side of the line to score. The try missed its mark.
A fumble by the Buffaloes on their first possession at the Shorter 34 where freshman Jevaris Jones recovered the loose ball set the stage for another long march by the Hawks.
This time Shorter took another seven minutes off the clock, running 13 plays again and covering the 67 yards with sophomore fullback B.J. McCoy pounded the ball into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown and Troy Postell added the PAT to give Shorter a 14-0 advantage with 13:39 remaining in the game.
On West Texas’ second possession, the Hawks’ defense continued to thwart the Buffs with Jones picking off his first pass of the season, giving Shorter the ball the Hawks’ 31.
From there Shorter converted the turnover into points, this time with senior Kenny Langford – Postell was injured after his second kickoff – splitting the uprights from 34 yards out giving the Hawks a 16-0 lead with 7:53 left in the half.
West Texas, however, quickly responded on the ensuing kickoff when Geremy Alridge-Mitchell broke free for a 93-yard touchdown return and Conner Hollabaugh hit the PAT to cut Shorter’s lead to 16-7.
The Hawks countered with what proved to be their final series of the first half when Langford connected with a 37-yard field goal with 7:36 to go in the half.
The opening half came when Shorter’s defense held their ground and forced West Texas to miss a 36-yard field goal as time expired.
When the two teams came back on the field, West Texas immediately grabbed the momentum.
After Shorter stopped the Buffs on the first series of the second half, West Texas quickly got the ball back when the Hawks muffed the punt and A&M set up shop at the Shorter 16.
West Texas eventually had to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Hollobaugh to cut Shorter’s lead to 19-10 but the Buffs didn’t waste time taking the lead the next time they touched the ball.
Following a 3-and-out series on Shorter’s next series, West Texas needed just six plays to cover 70 yards with the final snap resulting in a 54-yard touchdown pass from Preston Rabb to Anthony Johnson, who found himself open down the deep right sideline and after Hollobaugh nailed the PAT pulled to within one, 19-17, with 1:53 left in the period.
On the Hawks’ third series of the second half, disaster struck again, this time with Torian Oakley picking off a Dodson pass and returning the ball to the Shorter 43. From there, the Buffs put themselves in a position to take the lead when Hollobaugh hit a 38-yard field goal.
West Texas added some insurance points with 9:04 left in the game when the Buffs recovered a Shorter fumble at the Hawks’ 39 and eight plays later scored when Alridge-Mitchell scored from two yards out and Hollobaugh kick the extra point.
Dodson led Shorter rushing for 95 yards on 20 carries, while McCoy added 74 more yards on the ground, while Dodson completed just three of seven passes, was picked off once and, after avoiding any in the first two games, was sacked four times.
Zach Butts headed up Shorter’s defense with nine tackles, while safety Jordan Shaw joined J. Jones in picking off a pass which gives the junior six interceptions for the season.
Alridge-Mitchell, the Buffs’ talented all-purpose standout, rushed for a game-leading 125 yards on 29 carries, Rabb was 15-for-23 for 180 yards with Johnson hauling in six passes for 100 yards.
The Hawks, who have played three straight non-conference foes to begin the year, will get next Saturday off thanks to an open date and return to action Thursday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Barron Stadium when Shorter opens the first of seven straight Gulf South Conference tests facing Mississippi College.