WEATHERFORD, Okla. — The Henderson State defense came up with three interceptions on Thursday night and the Reddies pounded Southwestern Oklahoma State on the ground to defeat the Bulldogs 31-13 in the first game for the program since 2019.
The Reddies (1-0) ran the ball 45 times and out-rushed SWOSU 204-79 in the victory. Defensively, HSU stood tall in the red zone and limited the Bulldogs to just one score on four trips inside the 20-yard line.
Adam Morse finished 17-of-26 for 183 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in his first game as the starter for Henderson. Newcomer Chris Hatzis found the end zone on two of his three receptions, while Duce Sproles and L’liott Curry each added touchdowns in the opener. Redshirt freshman back Kris Morris led HSU on the ground with 91 yards on 18 carries.
The Reddies led 7-0 for the majority of the first half after Hatzis’s first catch of his career went for an 11-yard touchdown. With Henderson still up by just one score and less than two minutes to go until the half, SWOSU threatened when it got down to HSU’s 18-yard line. Linebacker Jacob Greenfield stole the Bulldog’s momentum, however, as he picked off Southwestern quarterback Tanner Griffin and returned the interception all the way to the Reddies’ 45-yard line.
Henderson’s offense took advantage and went on a five-play, 55-yard drive, capped off by Hatzis’s second score of the half, to seize a 14-0 lead at the break. Receiver Xavier Malone had a 15-yard run and a 25-yard catch to set up the touchdown.
SWOSU caught a break to begin the second half when the Bulldogs picked off Morse on HSU’s opening drive of the third quarter. Southwestern quickly marched 64 yards to pay dirt and cut the Reddies’ lead down to 14-7.
Needing a response, Henderson got one in the form of the preseason All-American Curry, who pulled in a 10-yard fade in the end zone to restore a two-touchdown lead for HSU at the 5:38 mark of the third. The Bulldogs refused to go away, however. SWOSU answered with an 80-yard scoring drive that took just over two minutes to trim the lead down to 21-13 and then forced a Reddie punt to begin the fourth quarter.
With a chance to tie the game, Southwestern’s ensuing drive was thwarted by Henderson’s Andrew Croker, who intercepted a tipped pass at the Henderson 39-yard line to once again flip the momentum in the Reddies’ direction.
Just like at the end of the first half, the HSU offense capitalized. A 24-yard completion to tight end Mike Benning provided the spark for the drive, as the Reddies went 61 yards in just four plays and extended their advantage to 28-13 on a 1-yard plunge by Sproles.
After a SWOSU three-and-out, Henderson put the game away with a 13-play, 50-yard drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock. Temo Martinez’s 23-yard field goal was the final nail for the Bulldogs as HSU polished off its first win since Nov. 9, 2019.
Henderson was terrific on third down and in the red zone offensively. The Reddies finished 7-for-12 on third down conversions and were 5-for-5 on red-zone scoring opportunities. Southwestern Oklahoma was hurt by 11 penalties for 85 yards on the night, while HSU was penalized just four times for 50 yards.
The Reddies return to action next Saturday, Sept. 11, when they host Northwestern Oklahoma State at 6 p.m. in the home opener at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium and Ruggles Field.