Above photo of KJ Miller by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru
BELTON, Texas- The UMHB football team had what head coach Pete Fredenburg called “a letdown” in the first half of last Saturday’s 34-28 win over Hardin-Simmons. At Monday’s news conference, Fredenburg made it clear that the Crusaders’ would be working on their first half performance moving forward.
“We had a letdown in the first two quarters of the game,” Fredenburg told the media on Monday. “They’ve had their letdown. They need to grow up and realize that every time we play, regardless of who our opponent is, we’re going to get their absolute best shot.”
The Crusaders certainly got that from then-No. 7 Hardin-Simmons, who led 28-7 at halftime. If not for a strong second half and a timely interception from Jayden Smith, UMHB could have been facing its first loss of the season.
However, Fredenburg’s resilient squad was not going to let that happen. They may have been tested, but certainly were not defeated. And that was coming off a rough week of practice.
“In the second half, I think our guys took stock of what was going on,” Fredenburg said. “They did not have a terribly good week of practice, which is unusual for Hardin-Simmons, but I think that was a huge wakeup call for us in the first half.
“I think it means a lot that they reached inside of themselves. The leadership really emerged tremendously and guys stepped up and did some things. I think they will come out of that with an enormous amount of confidence.”
One interesting stat from the victory was the fact that UMHB’s running game did not lose a single yard on 33 carries. The three ball carriers who tallied more than one carry apiece-Kyle King, Kenneth Cormier, and Aphonso Thomas- have a hard-nosed running style that allowed them to push past the initial contact and the line and spring forward for positive yardage.
“It says a lot about the ability of our offensive line to block and create holes,” Fredenburg said. “We’re gifted with three outstanding running backs in Aphonso [Thomas] and Kenny [Cormier] and then Montana Miller. Montana didn’t get many runs, but Kenny had a great showing. The first half, when we fumbled, we got a little nervous and Kenny came in and did a great job and held onto the football, which was terribly important at the time.”
Another strong offensive performance came from receiver Brandon Jordan, back on the field after suffering an upper-body injury against ETBU. The 6-6 Jordan secured the go-ahead touchdown, his second of the contest and finished the game with six catches for 101 yards.
“He’s had an incredible development,” Fredenburg said of Jordan on Monday. “I think last year he came in and didn’t really have the work ethic that he needed to really be a premier performer. He’s developed that, he wants to be on everything. Last year, he just kind of wanted to catch passes. This year, he’s done a lot of things, he’s blocked kicks.
“It’s like everything else that we talk about all the time. We’re very interested in guys becoming great teammates and that means doing things to serve your other teammates, to be there for them. I think that Brandon Jordan has grown, and matured a tremendous amount in a year.”
The Cru will need Jordan and the receiving corps against Austin College on Saturday, as UMHB makes its second road trip of the season up to Sherman, Texas. The Roos are 1-2, and have allowed 327.7 total yards of offense per game. It will be the first time UMHB has played Austin since 2005, as the Roos were football members of the Southern Athletic Association from 2006-2020. UMHB is 6-2 all-time against Austin.
“It goes without saying that we had so many film clips to study for Hardin-Simmons, when we played them last year, when we played them in ’18, when we played them in ’19,” Fredenburg said. “We can give a whole array of things that they try to do to attack us. This is totally new. Breaking down film, watching what they’re trying to do offensively and defensively is a little different. The nuances of each specific team creates some different things that we have to study and understand so we can teach our players.
“Again, we understand the significance of this game. We understand how hard Austin College will play. Hopefully we’ve learned a very valuable lesson, that we have to be focused in and ready to go at the beginning whistle. Our football team will be prepared and ready to go.”