By Tony Adams
The No. 5 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders Football team has had some memorable regular season games over its 19-year history.
None may be more important than Saturday’s home game against No. 3 Linfield College at Crusader Stadium.
Game time is 6 p.m. The game will be carried on KLTD-FM 101.7, K1017FM.com, RadioPup App and on CruAthletics.com, starting at 5:30 p.m. UMHB Sports Information Director Jon Wallin will have the call and longtime coordinator George Haffner will handle color analysis.
“Our guys are excited about this ball game,” UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg said. “They’re going to get the opportunity to get out there and play hard.”
UMHB is coming off of a decisive 56-21 over Texas Lutheran in Seguin last Saturday. The win marked the 68th time in the 19 years that the Cru has crossed the 50-point plateau, winning all 68 games. The Crusaders out rushed the Bulldogs 312-94, out passed TLU 259-125 and outgained Texas Lutheran overall 571-219.
Blake Jackson (33-of-53, 441 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 19-256, 2 TDs rushing) gets the start at quarterback at UMHB, following a 374 total-yard performance against TLU. Markeith Miller (14-210, 2 TDs) and Duane Thompson (35-149, 3 TDs) will each see significant time in the backfield. TJ Josey (12-207, 3 TDs), DeNarian Thomas (6-38), Bryce Wilkerson (5-30, 1 TD) and Wykeyhe Walker (4-57) will be among a handful of receivers to see time this week in the passing patterns.
The offensive front of DeJuan Ramirez, Broderick Jenkins, Tivyronne White, Justin Brister and Corbin Campitelli will get the start against a fierce Wildcats defense.
UMHB’s offensive output has been impressive, outgaining opponents overall 1,181-445. They have outrushed teams 716-254 and out-passed opponents 465-191. The have outscored teams 112-21, with the second quarter being the only quarter where they have been outscored (8-7, as opposed to outscoring teams 49-8 in the first, 28-7 in the third and 28-0 in the fourth).
Linfield’s defensive line features Jake Handran and Marcus McGovern at defensive ends, Zach Grate and Ty Farber at defensive tackles, Jake Reimer, Kyle Chandler and Mitch Lewis at linebackers, and Dylan Lewis, Mikey Arkans, Skylor Elgarico and Kennedy Johnson in the secondary. The allowed 280 yards of total offense against Chapman last Saturday.
Defensively the Cru held talented TLU running back Marcus Barrolle to 82 yards rushing and receiver Jekovan Holmes to 88 yards receiving, combining for 170 of the 219 total yards allowed.
Baylor Mullins and Caleb Armstrong each had seven tackles and Teidrick Smith had six tackles and three sacks (losses of 13 yards). Smith and Armstrong will get the starts at defensive end, while Brazos Fuller and Haston Adams get the starts at defensive tackle. Mullins, Keith Reineke and Matt Cody get the nods for the linebacker starts. The secondary starters will be Jaedon Johnson (Cru back), Hunter Schmidt (free safety), Reggie Wilson and Rozzell Barber-Harris (cornerbacks).
John Mowery (0-2 FG, 15-15 PAT) will get the start at kicker and Mullins (7-235, 33.6 average, 2 inside 20) will start at punter.
The Wildcats outgained the Panthers 165-89 on the ground and 406-191 through the air last week.
Sam Riddle had a great game against the Chapman defense, going 30-of-38 for 391 yards, 5 TDs and an interception. He spreads the ball out, with Johnny Carroll, Reed Peterson, Zach Kuzens, Erick Douglas, Eric Iginoba and Sam Robinson seeing plays in the pattern. Spencer Payne and Sutter Choisser are the feature backs for Linfield. They feature an offensive line of James Andrew, Stephen Nnabue, Will Heck, Kela Grace and Ryne Fuhrmark.
“Sam as a quarterback is good at extending the play,” Fredenburg said. “He has a really nice arm.”
Their special teams have Cayman Conley as their kicker and Kevin McClean as their punter. The Wildcats allowed a 97-yard punt return for a touchdown in the punt return game.
Their first battle was at the 2004 Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, which ended in a heartbreaking 28-21 loss to the Panthers. The Cru lost 53-21 in NCAA Division III Second Round Playoffs in 2009 at McMinnville, Oreg., after having 14-3 lead going into the second quarter. UMHB fell 31-28 against Linfield at Crusader Stadium in 2014 NCAA Second Round, after leading 21-17 and fighting back from a 10-point deficit 31-21.
The most recent heartbreak was last year’s 38-35 loss to Linfield in the NCAA Division III Quarterfinals, after leading 21-0, to end their 2015 playoff run in McMinnville. The game-ending 32-yard field goal by Michael Metter provided the dagger that ended the season.
The Crusaders are expecting an excited crowd and hope to see a full house at Crusader Stadium on Saturday, as the game is one of the only games throughout the four NCAA divisions (FBS, FCS, Division II and Division III) to feature top five teams playing each other.
“We haven’t played a better home football game then we played against Wesley College (the game that the Crusaders opened the stadium with in 2013),” Fredenburg said. “It was heated rivalry and we were accustomed to each other. But the atmosphere was electric. If we could create that again, it would give us the opportunity to play a great ballgame.”