BELTON, Texas- UMHB head football coach Pete Fredenburg was encouraged by his team’s 84-6 season-opening victory on Saturday night, including the play of the defensive line.
But he made sure to note that his team is grounded entering a critical conference opener this Saturday against East Texas Baptist, who is coming off a 37-31 road win at Wisconsin-Platteville.
“I think the players realize that East Texas Baptist beating the Wisconsin team (Wisconsin-Platteville) was a big step for them,” Fredenburg told the media Monday. “I think our guys have their feet firmly planted on the ground. They understand the job that they have to do.”
Based on UMHB’s performance against Simpson College, it is fully evident that the Cru are equipped to handle this week’s task.
The Crusader defense held the Storm to -9 yards rushing and just 146 yards of total offense. The UMHB offense set an ASC record for rushing touchdowns with 10, and posted 601 yards of offense in the victory.
Yet, Fredenburg noted that there are things to be learned from the game film as preparation for ETBU begins.
“We did a lot of really good things from the video,” Fredenburg said. “But there’s a few small adjustments we need to make. Playing defense, what you do with your eyes is so important. So when we’re playing zone coverage, we’ve got to be seeing the quarterback and obviously when you’re playing man coverage, you want to see the man.
“We got to where we take a peek here and there and do little things that get you in trouble, so we learned a lot from the film and hopefully we’ll be better from it.”
One area that Fredenburg was especially pleased with was the performance of the defensive line, which pressured Simpson quarterback Seth Howard on nearly every play and found its way into the backfield.
“I was encouraged by the defensive line, I thought they kept constant pressure on the quarterback,” Fredenburg said. “They’re all so young and I was proud of Caleb Johnson especially. I think he’s really had a great preseason and has started off really strong.”
The defensive line will be critical against the Tigers of ETBU, who boast a high-octane offense with several playmakers. In their season opener against Wisconsin-Platteville, ETBU totaled 524 yards of offense, 332 through the air.
“They have an outstanding running back (Cornelius Merchant) who had two 60-yard runs against Wisconsin[-Platteville],” Fredenburg said when asked about ETBU. “The quarterback (Troy Yowman) is really a good thrower. They threw it 54 times and they’ve got a host of good receivers, so it’s important that we develop a plan to get some pressure on the quarterback.”
The Cru will look to learn from the last meeting with ETBU, in which the Tigers nearly upset UMHB if not for an Anthony Avila field goal on the final drive.
“Last year they attacked our primary coverage really well,” Fredenburg said, “It might have been one of the worst games that we played in the secondary in years. So it’s a big challenge for us to come back from last year. I felt like we kept them in the ballgame and had to really work hard to come back.”
The Cru has an efficient and high-scoring offense of its own, in part due to the play of the offensive line. The five-man front of Jesse Hoke, Reuel Tandoh, Jeffery Sims Jr., Matt Sanders and Ethan Ruckman was excellent in the season opener, even with a new starter at center. Following the graduation of All-American Steven Sellers in the spring, Sims Jr. moved from tackle to center and handled his new role well against Simpson.
“I think our offensive line has really matured a lot,” Fredenburg said. “We lost Steve Sellers from last year and moved Jeffery Sims to center. He’s done a great job of transitioning and he’s really the leader of the offensive line. They really just get better every day.”
Over the last several seasons, as UMHB has maintained its status as one of Div. III football’s powerhouse programs, ETBU has slowly grown to become a ASC title contender. A hard fight appears to be in the cards Saturday evening in Belton. Fredenburg expects nothing less.
“East Texas has always been a rival, a team that wants to challenge for the conference championship,” Fredenburg told the media. “We know they have great athletes and a great coaching staff so we know we’re in for a formidable contest. But that’s what prepares us to be better.”