Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru
BELTON, Texas- It did not take long for UMHB to mount a two-score lead in Saturday’s 49-3 drubbing of Texas Lutheran.
In fact, it took just two plays.
Running back Aphonso Thomas broke through the right side of the line and past the TLU secondary, flashing his speed, as he scored from 53 yards out on UMHB’s first play from scrimmage. The Cru went to the air on its second possession, and quarterback Kyle King found receiver KJ Miller wide open down the right sideline. A 50-yard score and 14-0 lead was the result.
“[The line] just parted like the Red Sea,” Thomas said postgame of his 53-yard score. “That was none of me. That was the linemen and the receivers blocking pretty well. All I had to do was run.”
The victory moved the Crusaders to 6-0 on the year, and a perfect 5-0 in ASC play. It also marked UMHB’s 37th straight regular season win at Crusader Stadium.
Similar to UMHB’s previous victories this season, the offense’s seven-score performance did not come without a strong first stop from the defensive front. On TLU’s first possession, the Bulldogs picked up a first down, completing a pass for 16 yards, then opted to go for it on fourth-and-three from the UMHB 44-yard line three plays later. But Josh Patteson and Omari Frazier got into the backfield on the handoff, forcing the turnover.
“It gets us fired up,” Thomas, who had a career-high 136 rushing yards, said of the fourth down stop. “Just like they love when we score, we love when they get a big stop like that. We’re ready to play after that.”
That gave Thomas an opportunity for his lone touchdown of the game on the following play. By the end of the first quarter, UMHB had tallied 160 yards of offense, extending the lead to 21-0 on King’s second touchdown pass; a 1-yard strike to receiver Brandon Jordan.
The Cru added two additional touchdowns before the end of the half, the latter of the two made possible by a “run-option” from Jefferson Fritz out of a punt formation.
“It’s kind of a run-option,” UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg said of the play. “We feel like he is capable of doing a lot of things.”
Fritz’s successful run on fourth down gave way to a three-yard rushing touchdown from King. It marked the senior quarterback’s 10th rushing score of the year, as he found an opening and raced into the end zone with 4:55 left in the second quarter.
Interestingly, it marked the first time this season that UMHB has opened a game by scoring a touchdown in each of its first five possessions.
That drive was also notable, though perhaps in a more negative way, because starting right guard Ethan Ruckman left the game with an apparent injury. He was unable to put pressure on his right leg as he was helped to the sidelines, and did not return to action.
“It looked bad,” Fredenburg said of Ruckman’s injury, “but they’ve x-rayed it and nothing is broken.”
In his place, Wyatt Crawford entered the game. Crawford made several solid blocks, and was tasked with the responsibility of blocking on left-handed quarterback Tommy Bowden’s blindside during the second half, as the backups saw playing time late.
“I think he did a nice job,” Fredenburg said of Crawford. “Bill Bleil is doing a great job with our offensive line. They continue to impress me.”
While the offense widened the margin, the defense worked to contain TLU’s offensive attack. With an option-based offense, TLU quarterback Seth Cosme finished as the Bulldogs’ leading rusher, tallying 40 rushing yards. The Cru struggled slightly early on, facing a different offensive look than what they had seen on film.
“They had been running an option to the weakside,” Fredenburg said, “but we hadn’t seen the one to the play side. It took us a little bit to adjust to it.”
The UMHB defensive front certainly adjusted, holding the Bulldogs to just three third-down conversions on 14 attempts and nine first downs.
“I think we had a great plan,” Fredenburg told reporters postgame. “We can defend the option.”
One key component in UMHB’s run-stopping attack was Frazier, who made his first start of the season at linebacker. The sophomore tallied a team-best nine tackles, four of which were solo. Of course, he also contributed to UMHB’s first tackle for loss to end TLU’s opening drive.
“He’s good,” Fredenburg remarked of Frazier following the win. “He’s a good, talented player.”
The Cru added to its already significant lead in the second half, as King connected with Miller for the second time with 10:07 in the third quarter. That seven-yard touchdown pass was all the scoring either team did in the third, though running back Montana Miller sprinted untouched into the end zone with 7:10 remaining in the fourth. It was Miller’s second consecutive game with a rushing touchdown.
While Miller and others came off the sidelines to contribute in the win, Fredenburg was disappointed by a somewhat sloppy second-half effort from his squad.
“It did [get sloppy with the backups in],” Fredenburg said postgame. “If they’re going to go out and be sloppy, we’ve got to coach them to where they’re not, because we’re going to need some of those guys.”
Statistically, King finished 16-for-25 passing for 180 yards, throwing into the wind in the second quarter. He accounted for five of UMHB’s seven touchdowns, four through the air, and one rushing. Miller tallied six receptions for 92 yards and two scores.
The Crusaders prepare to take their longest road trip of the regular season next week, traveling to Alpine, Texas for a matchup against Sul Ross State. The Lobos are 1-3, and lost to Belhaven 44-0 on Saturday.