Above photo by Luke C. Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON, Texas- It is finally here. The annual clash between Hardin-Simmons and UMHB is being played for the first time since 2011 in the month of September, and it also brings about a Top 10 matchup, as the Cru is ranked No. 2 by D3football.com and HSU is No. 7. Due to the high rankings for both teams, this contest is receiving national attention.
But even without the rankings, this rivalry runs deep in both programs.
We break down the matchup, storylines to watch, and bring you UMHB’s two-deep depth chart in this week’s game preview.
No. 7 Hardin-Simmons @ No. 2 UMHB
Date: Sept. 25
Place: Crusader Stadium Belton, Texas
Time: 6:00 p.m.
READ: A look back on the UMHB vs. Hardin-Simmons rivalry through the eyes of former Cru football players
READ: In rivalry built from respect, UMHB and Hardin-Simmons set to meet for 29th time
About the opponent: Hardin-Simmons Cowboys
Head Coach: Jesse Burleson (11th season)
Conference: American Southwest
Season Record (overall/conf): 3-0, 2-0
Names to know: Sr. QB Kyle Jones (64-of-91 passing, 777 yds, 9 TD, 2 INT), Fr. RB Colton Marshall (29 carries, 194 yds, 6.7 yds/carry, 1 TD), Jr. WR Gatlin Martin (10 catches, 114 yds, 2 TD) So. Kai Brinkerhoff (8 catches, 139 yds, 2 TD), So. LB Matt Mitchell (21.0 total tackles, 1.5 TFL), Fr. S Davonte Nephew (9.0 total tackles, 2 INT)
This rivalry runs deep: It is the game circled on the calendar each season for both the Cowboys and the Crusaders. After all, the winner of this annual meeting has gone on to claim at least a share of the conference title in every year since 1998. The last time these two teams met at Crusader Stadium, it resulted in the closest game ever played in the rivalry’s history; a 15-14 UMHB win. Kicker Anthony Avila was responsible for the game-winning field goal as time expired. During the spring season, HSU hosted UMHB in the ASC Championship Game, with the Cru taking a 23-15 win back to Belton.
Battle in the trenches: One of Hardin-Simmons’ strengths is in the Cowboys’ defensive front, which includes leading tackler Matt Mitchell. HSU has allowed just 16 points through its first three contests, shutting out both Wayland Baptist and Sul Ross before winning 21-16 against Belhaven last week. With that said, UMHB will undoubtedly be the toughest offense the Cowboy defense has faced up to this point. The Cru has several key playmakers at all offensive positions, but the production on that side of the ball will start with the offensive line. Reuel Tandoh is not on the depth chart for the second straight week, but John Kazmierski stepped up in his absence against Southwestern and will be ready to do the same against HSU.
Miller is back: KJ Miller had a phenomenal season debut in last week’s 54-3 defeat of Southwestern, leading the Cru in receptions (7) and yards (139) along with two touchdowns. Against Hardin-Simmons, Miller is set to play a critical role in the Cru’s passing game, as well as serve as one of UMHB’s two returners on kicks and punts. He did not tally a return against Southwestern, but was the ASC’s Special Teams Player of the Year in the spring.
Two Deep Depth Chart
*-Team Captain, L-Varsity Letter, SQ- Previously on varsity roster in past season(s) but has seen no playing time, TR- Transfer
Quarterback: *Kyle King (Sr.-1L), Tommy Bowden (Jr.-2L)
Running Back: Aphonso Thomas (Jr.-1L), Kenneth Cormier Jr. (So.-1L)
Wide Receiver: Brenton Martin (Sr.-2L), Aaron Sims (Sr.-1L)
Wide Receiver: KJ Miller (Sr.-2L), DJ Weaver (Sr-2L)
Wide Receiver: Jamaal Hamilton (Jr.-TR), Romello Cook (Sr.-1L)
Tiger End: *Gary Ruckman (Sr.-2L), Connor Mullins (So.-1L)
Left Tackle: Jesse Hoke (So.-1L), Hayes Chizer (So.-SQ)
Left Guard: John Kazmierski (Sr.-2L), Cam Williams (Sr.-3L)
Center: Jeffrey Sims Jr. (Sr.-3L), Jacob Dailey (So.-1L)
Right Guard: Matt Sanders (Jr.-2L), Adam Dobbins (Sr.-SQ)
Right Tackle: Ethan Ruckman (So.-1L), Wyatt Crawford (So.-1L)
Defensive End: Sante Parker Jr. (Sr.-2L), Khevon Shepard (Sr.-4L)
Defensive Tackle: Tristan Green (So.-1L), Jose Fuentes (Fr.-HS)
Defensive Tackle: Josh Patteson (So.-1L), Pete Smith (Sr.-3L),
Defensive End: E’Monte Smith (Sr.-4L), Trey Witcher (Fr.-TR)
Weakside Linebacker: *Mikkah Hackett (Sr.-4L), Charles Minniweather (Fr.-HS)
Middle Linebacker: Casey Buck (Fr.-TR), Akeem Jackson (Sr.-4L)
Strongside Linebacker: Jacob Mueller (Sr.-3L), Omari Frazier (So.-1L)
Cru (Flex Safety): Jayden Smith (Sr.-3L), Jordan See (So.-1L)
Free Safety: *Jefferson Fritz (Sr.-4L), Khyren Deal (Fr.-HS)
Cornerback: Titus Dunk (Jr.-2L), Tavion Page (Jr.-2L)
Cornerback: Keith Gipson (Sr.-3L), Chaka Watson (So.-1L)
Kicker: Anthony Avila (Sr.-3L), Brandon Cunningham (Jr.-2L)
Punter: *Jefferson Fritz (Sr.-4L), Brandon Cunningham (Jr.-2L)
Punt Returner: Jefferson Fritz (Sr.-4L), KJ Miller (Sr.-2L)
Kick Returner: Aaron Sims (Sr.-1L), KJ Miller (Sr.-2L)
Long Snapper: Jacob Mueller (Sr.-3L), Clay Barnett (Jr.-2L)
Holder: Tommy Bowden (Jr.-2L), Ryan Redding (Sr.-3L)
Two Deep Notes:
KJ Miller, who had two TD and 7 catches last week at Southwestern is on the two-deep for the first time this season…Adam Dobbins, the backup at left guard last week, is now the backup at right guard…Akeem Jackson, who started UMHB’s first three games of the season at middle linebacker, is now listed as the backup to Casey Buck, a transfer from Wayland Baptist who has played in two games with one total tackle…WR Brandon Jordan, who suffered a sprained AC Joint, is not on the two-deep for the second straight game…Caleb Johnson, a three-game starter on the defensive line, is not listed on the two-deep.