By Tony Adams
When the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and Wesley College get together and play a football game, it’s not just any ordinary Saturday game. Their games have significance, whether it is to establish national dominance and garner attention during the regular season or the right to play for a NCAA Division III title game berth.
The Cru, ranked fourth in the country by D3Football.com, played before the largest crowd ever to witness a UMHB game in its regular season christening and did it in grand style with a 35-7 win over the fifth-ranked Wolverines. A crowd of 9,384 got their taste of Cru Football in their 2013 home opener.
It didn’t take long for the Cru to familiarize itself with the end zone, as just four plays and 1:24 into the game, sophomore quarterback Zach Anderson completed a 30-yard pass to Marcus Wimby down to the Wolverine 40-yard line. On the next play, Anderson busted around the right side of the line and raced 40 yards for a touchdown. Drew Owen converted the extra point to make the score 7-0.
UMHB’s defense got into the act on the Wolverines’ first drive as Deshon Kinsey, Korey Steward, Baylor Mullins, Brodrick Crain and Andy McAteer contributed to the first of several three-and-out drives in the game. Just 1:07 into their opening drive, Wesley punted the ball back to the Cru.
The excitement of the Cru’s first drive of the game was quickly tempered. After a pair of Elijah Hudson runs, Anderson was intercepted by Sosthene Kapepula and Wesley took over on the UMHB 44-yard line.
Wesley’s next possession was a short one. A three-yard tackle for a loss by Eric Allen set up a third down and 13 situation on the UMHB 47-yard line. Wolverines’ quarterback Joe Callahan dropped back into the pocket to pass and got immediately flushed out and sacked by Teidrick Smith, knocking Wesley back to their own 41-yard line to force another punt.
A turnover by UMHB gave Wesley a golden opportunity to cash in for points, as they recovered a fumble on the 16-yard line. McAteer came up big for the Cru on the drive; as a pair of tackles by the Katy senior stalled the Wolverine drive just three yards from where it started. With the sound of the Cru student section bellowing on field level, Jon Storck missed a 29-yard field goal wide right.
The Cru wasted little time in driving down the field, as on the second play of the drive Anderson hit Marcus Wimby again with a 32-yard pass to give UMHB a first down on Wesley’s 40-yard line, Hudson’s 15-yard plow set up a second down and 12 yards to go play on the Wolverine 20-yard line. Anderson dropped back to pass, was flushed out of the pocket, sprinted to the near sideline, broke back to the middle of the field and headed to the far side, then cut back to the middle and scored. He covered nearly 100 yards of real estate to gain 20-yards. But six points made the effort worthwhile as UMHB went up 14-0 with 4:17 to go in the first quarter. The quarter ended with the same score, with the Cru driving again.
Just 1:34 into the next drive, Anderson found Hudson on a shuffle pass in traffic and the senior running flew 50-yards up the middle for another Cru touchdown. The play capped off a six-play, 78-yard drive, as the Cru started to pull away from the Wolverines at 21-0 with 14:39 remaining in the first half.
Following the UMHB defense holding Wesley to a pair of three-and-out drives and a fruitless 32-yard drive, the Cru put together a 13-play, 65-yard drive to set up a Drew Owen 36-yard field goal attempt. The attempt went wide right and UMHB carried a 21-0 lead into the locker room
The first drive of the second half for Wesley started with a pair of incomplete passes sandwiched around a Callahan run that was met with thundering authority by Smith and Silvio Diaz for a three-yard loss. The Wolverines gave the ball back to the Cru on Wesley’s 48-yard line.
Kamray Runnels made his mark on the Cru’s ensuing drive, as a 25-yard run and 14-yard pass from Anderson set UMHB up with first down and goal-to-go on the 9-yard line. Hudson found the end zone three plays later on a 6-yard run and the Cru led 28-0 just 2:42 into the third quarter.
Diaz, Kinsey and Steward teamed up for two big defensive stops on the next Wolverine drive. Kinsey and Diaz stood Eugene Byrd up for no gain at the Wesley 25-yard line. On third down, Diaz and Steward blasted through the Wolverine offensive line and sacked Callahan for a 15-yard loss back to the Wesley 7-yard line. On fourth down, the Wolverines tried a fake punt in which Ryan Gerlitz’ pass fell incomplete and the Cru had a short field to work with on the next drive.
Just two plays and :35 were all UMHB needed to extend the lead to 35-0. Anderson’s 6-yard run led to Hudson’s 1-yard touchdown score with 8:34 remaining in the third quarter.
The teams traded punts before UMHB went on another short drive, aided by a Runnels’ 28-yard punt return to the Wesley 34-yard line. The Cru worked the ball down to the Wesley 5-yard line before Kapepula intercepted the ball at the line of scrimmage to stop the UMHB drive with :39 remaining in the third quarter.
Once again, the teams traded several punts throughout the fourth quarter before Wesley was able to manage a drive with 6:25 remaining in the game. Callahan found Andrew Monaghan for 64-yards to the UMHB 2-yard line. On the second play following the long completion, Curtis Maxwell broke up the Cru shutout with a 3-yard touchdown run to put Wesley on the board 35-7 with 5:19 remaining in the game.
UMHB salted the game away by keeping the ball the rest of the way and open their new on-campus home with a 28-point victory.
“I like what (Wesley coach) Mike Drass said: that this is a litmus test,” said UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg. “It’s a litmus test for both of us. When you look at the end result, that’s pretty special.”
Anderson was 16-of 24 passing for 238 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for the Cru. Hudson had 143 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, while Marcus Wimby had five receptions for 78 yards for UMHB.
“We spoke a lot about the rivalry between us,” said Anderson. “We were 4-4 all-time against them. We knew they would play us hard. They play fast and physical. I expected us to come out like this. I knew our defense would lock it down like this and I knew our offensive was going to roll. I’m happy it turned out that way.”
Callahan was 9-of-28 passing for 136 yards for Wesley. Monaghan’s 64-yard catch left him a Wesley’s leading receiver.
UMHB dominated in all facets of the statistical column, as they outrushed Wesley 181 to minus-31, out passed Wesley 280 to 136, in total yards 461-105 and in time of possession by 12 minutes. The defense had four sacks and 11 tackles for losses totaling 69 yards.
“It starts with hard work and practice,” said Smith. “We just play hard and fast.”
“We figured that the key match ups were up front,” said Wesley head coach Mike Drass. “We were confident in the match ups. Throughout the course of the season, our guys will develop. It wasn’t there tonight. Defensively, we had some breakdowns in the first half. But our kids played hard throughout the game. ”
Both coaches were equally impressed with the night, despite what the score was on the board.
“I think that was the most incredible atmosphere,” said Fredenburg. “This place rocked tonight. It was an incredible night for all of us.”
“We had 18 people in blue tonight,” said Drass. “In the last 26 years, we’ve been everywhere. We’ve been to 20 different states, played in I-AA stadiums, Whitewater (Wisconsin) Stadium, Butler Stadium, Davidson Stadium, Charleston Southern Stadium, we’ve been on both coasts, obviously this facility is a superior facility to a lot of I-AA and Division II scholarship programs. This is impressive.”
“The fans kept us in it as well,” said Anderson. “We didn’t feel any negativity from them at all. That’s important in an environment like this.”
Sul Ross State comes to Belton Saturday night for the first American Southwest Conference game of 2013 for the Cru. Fredenburg believes that the crowd presence will be equally as important as it was for Wesley.
“Sul Ross will be a big game as well,” said Fredenburg. “I believe it’s important to get the fans back into the stands against them as well, because that makes a big difference. What was fun to me is seeing that fun our guys had.”