Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru
ALPINE, Texas- It took No. 2 UMHB longer than usual to find its footing on Saturday afternoon, scoring just seven first-quarter points, but the Crusaders mounted a sizable lead soon enough, scoring 31 in the second quarter en route to a 72-14 victory over Sul Ross State.
It moved UMHB to 7-0 on the year, 6-0 in the ASC, and marked its 21st straight victory over the Lobos.
“We are excited to get the win, and obviously it was a little sloppy, but we got everybody in,” UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg said postgame on the Fox Sports Central Texas radio broadcast. “It was a good opportunity to see everybody.
“The thing I told [our team] just now is, as we start watching guys perform in situations like this, the coaches either gain confidence in you, or they don’t. As we get into the playoffs and later in the year, we’re going to have to be able to count on these guys.”
The coaching staff certainly gained confidence in backup quarterback Ryan Redding, who played for the majority of the second half. Moved from third-string to second-string after Tommy Bowden was switched to defense, Redding went 10-for-13, and finished with a team-high 201 passing yards. He also accounted for four touchdowns, three of which came through the air.
“I think Ryan is going to be a guy that we go to,” Fredenburg said postgame. “We moved Tommy to defense and I think he’s going to make some significant progress over there. They’re both incredible people. They will do anything for this team.”
Redding stood out specifically when the Cru ran the Run-Pass Option, as he demonstrated excellent timing and good reads of the Sul Ross defense. On his first touchdown pass of the contest, he caught the SRSU defense playing the run, and found tight end Connor Mullins wide-open in the front end of the end zone.
That 12-yard score put UMHB in front 51-14 at the 5:27 mark of the third quarter. It came on the heels of starting quarterback Kyle King’s third passing touchdown on the previous drive, as King connected with receiver Brenton Martin from 30 yards out.
King played a major role in the Crusaders’ 31-point second quarter, going 6-of-10 passing for 106 yards. Those were the first passes he attempted in the contest, as UMHB opted for a rushing-only attack in the opening quarter.
That strategy resulted in seven points on 15 carries for 59 yards, as the Cru’s lone scoring drive opened with back-to-back carries from Kenneth Cormier. Cormier tallied gains of 20 and 10 yards, adding another eight on the following play, before King punched the ball in from two yards out.
The spark for UMHB in the second quarter came on KJ Miller’s 88-yard punt return touchdown, with 12:58 on the clock. SRSU punter Jaden Brown booted the ball 52 yards downfield after the Cru defense forced a three-and-out, and within the blink of an eye, Miller caught the ball and was off to the races behind multiple key blocks from the UMHB return unit.
“That’s an amazing weapon,” Fredenburg said of his punt returns unit. “We’ve got three that can really do the job, and when the kicker starts kicking it away from you and kicking it out of bounds for a 10, 15 yard punt, that’s a pretty good opportunity to turn it around.”
That is exactly what happened, as Brown’s longest punt past that point went for 39 yards, and two of his punts did not travel further than eight yards. It put UMHB in great field position throughout the remainder of the contest, especially as the Cru defense limited the Lobos to a total of seven first downs.
Leading the defense was linebacker Durand Hill, who tallied five total tackles, including one for loss. The freshman also forced a fumble. A converted running back, Hill was someone Fredenburg spoke of entering the game as a potential playmaker for the Cru.
“He has done a great job and is just going to get better and better,”Fredenburg recently said of Hill. “Obviously he has tremendous instinct and he’s going to be a really good player for us.”
He proved to be a force that SRSU struggled to overcome, helping the Crusaders limit the Lobos to 42 rushing yards, an average of just 1.3 yards per carry.
Offensively, UMHB totaled 573 total yards of offense; 365 via the pass, and 208 on the ground. Aphonso Thomas posted a team-best 86 rushing yards, with one touchdown that came from a yard out with 3:59 in the second quarter. Cormier added 84 yards.
The passing game was spread out amongst eight receivers, stretching out the SRSU secondary. Martin had a team-high five catches, a season-best for the Marietta, Georgia native. Those five catches went for 106 yards, 55 of which came on his second score of the day, as he lept for a Redding pass and sprinted into the end zone.
UMHB will need the passing game as it gets set to face an opponent with a much better mark next week in Belhaven. The Blazers are 5-2, coming off a 24-10 win at Howard Payne on Saturday, in which they limited HPU to 64 rushing yards. Kickoff for that contest in Belton is set for noon.