Game Preview: No. 2 UMHB at McMurry

Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru

BELTON, Texas- The regular season finale has arrived for the UMHB football team, who has already clinched a spot in the D-III playoffs, beginning next week. But before the Crusaders can compete in the playoffs, McMurry is the final hurdle they must clear on the ASC slate. 

The Warhawks enter the matchup at 2-6 on the year, but have lost by single digits to both Howard Payne and Hardin-Simmons this season, one big reason they should not be overlooked.

UMHB is a perfect 9-0, 8-0 in ASC play after defeating Howard Payne 59-14 in the regular season home finale. 

We break down the matchup, the opponent, touch on the storylines and bring you UMHB’s two-deep depth chart in this week’s game preview. 

No. 2/2 UMHB @ McMurry
Date: Nov. 13

Place: Wilford Moore Stadium, Abilene, Texas

Time: 1:00 p.m. 

Streaming: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/umhb/

About the opponent: McMurry Warhawks

Head Coach: Jordan Neal (Third season)

Season Record (overall/conf): 2-6, 2-6 (Notable results: vs Howard Payne  L 42-36, @ Hardin-Simmons L 24-21)

Names to know: 

OFFENSE: Jr. RB Kameron Session (105 carries, 558 yds, 5.3 yds/carry), So. RB Dee Robinson (86 carries, 382 yds, 7 TD), Fr. Dexter Wyble (100-of-165 passing, 1,303 pass yds, 8 TD, 7 INT), So. Jermond Lovely (27 receptions, 463 yds, 2 TD), Fr. Kristopher Martin (23 receptions, 354 yds, 2 TD)

DEFENSE: Sr. LB Josh Smith (70 total tackles, 36 solo tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL), So. DE Devin Nixon (43 total tackles, 27 solo tackles, 8.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks), Fr. S Coryell Fillmore (3 INT, 2 pass breakups, 40 total tackles, 23 solo tackles, 1.5 TFL)

Three Storylines to Watch 

Playoffs…here we come: With last week’s 59-14 win over Howard Payne, UMHB officially clinched the ASCs automatic bid to the NCAA D-III playoffs, set to begin Nov. 20. The Crusaders were also ranked No. 1 in Region 3 in this week’s NCAA regional rankings. Though they are already locked into a spot in the playoffs, UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg noted at Monday’s press conference the importance of staying focused against McMurry. 

“There’s also a temptation to just relax in that you’ve got McMurry who doesn’t have a great win-loss record and we’re at the end of our season and getting ready for the playoffs,” Fredenburg said. “The reality is that I think this is when we need to push the accelerator and try to get everybody playing extremely well as we move into the latter stages of our season.”

Defensive dominance: UMHB’s defense continues to rank as one of the nation’s best, currently fourth nationally in passing yards allowed (1,145), first downs allowed (102), and eighth in yards per play (3.49). That is in large part due to the play of linebacker Jacob Mueller, safety Jefferson Fritz, and defensive end E’Monte Smith. Mueller leads the ASC in tackles for loss (13.0 for 48 yds, while Smith ranks second in sacks (6.0). Fritz has done a little bit of everything from his position at safety, helping assist in both run and pass defense, and has the ability to change a game with his ability to read the quarterback and track down throws. 

Also, notable is the fact that the Cru defense has a notable history against the Warhawks. In the last three meetings between the two programs, McMurry has scored a great total of seven points, on one touchdown in 2018. The last contest, played on Oct. 5, 2019, saw UMHB roll to a 79-0 win. 

KJ Miller to challenge the McMurry secondary: KJ Miller has been a reliable target throughout this season, but the senior receiver has been on a tear as of late, tallying 12 receptions, a UMHB single-game high, against Howard Payne last week. He now ranks second in the conference in receptions (36) and fifth in receiving yards (527). He has added six touchdowns and is sure to be a threat to the McMurry secondary, with his world-class speed. 

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

Offense

Quarterback: Ryan Redding (Sr.-3L), Kyle King (Sr.-1L)

Running Back: Aphonso Thomas (Jr.-1L), Kenneth Cormier Jr. (So.-1L)

Wide Receiver: DJ Weaver (Sr.-2L), Jerry Day (Fr.-TR)

Wide Receiver: KJ Miller (Sr.-2L), Aaron Sims (Sr.-1L)

Wide Receiver: Brandon Jordan (Sr.-1L), Jamaal Hamilton (Jr.-TR)

Tiger End: *Gary Ruckman (Sr.-2L), Connor Mullins (So.-1L)

Left Tackle: Jesse Hoke (So.-1L), Hayes Chizer (So.-SQ)

Left Guard: Reuel Tandoh (So-1L), John Kazmierski (Sr.-2L)

Center: Jeffery Sims Jr. (Sr.-3L), Jacob Dailey (So.-1L)

Right Guard: Matt Sanders (Jr.-2L), Adam Dobbins (Sr.-SQ)

Right Tackle: Ethan Ruckman (So.-1L), Kyle Wente (Fr.-HS)

Defense

Left Defensive End: Sante Parker Jr. (Sr.-2L), E’Monte Smith (Sr.-4L)

Left Defensive Tackle: Pete Smith (Sr.-3L), Anthony Clayton (Jr.-TR)

Right Defensive Tackle: Josh Patteson (So.-1L), Tristan Green (So.-1L)

Right Defensive End: Khevon Shepard (Sr.-4L), Caleb Johnson (Sr.-3L) 

Weakside Linebacker:  Jacob Mueller (Sr.-3L), Mikkah Hackett (Sr.-4L)

Middle Linebacker: Akeem Jackson (Sr.-4L), Durand Hill (Fr.-HS)

Strongside Linebacker: Omari Frazier (So.-1L), Jackson Sennie (So.-1L)

Cru (Flex Safety): Jayden Smith (Sr.-3L),  Jordan See (So.-1L)

Free Safety: *Jefferson Fritz (Sr.-4L), Khryen Deal (Fr.-HS)

Cornerback: Titus Dunk (Jr.-2L), Tavion Page (Jr.-2L)

Cornerback: Keith Gipson (Sr.-3L), Chaka Watson (So.-1L)

Special Teams

Kicker: Brandon Cunningham (Jr.-2L), Anthony Avila (Sr.-3L)

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)

Holder: Tommy Bowden (Jr.-2L), Ryan Redding (Sr.-3L)

Two-Deep Notes: QB Kyle King is back on the depth chart after suffering a turf toe injury at Sul Ross State…OL Ethan Ruckman is set to start at right tackle after suffering a minor right ankle injury against Belhaven. OL Wyatt Crawford, who started last week’s game at the position exited the contest with a similar injury, and Kyle Wente, a freshman from San Antonio, is listed as the backup…K Brandon Cunningham is now listed as the starter at kicker after connecting on his first field goal of the season last week, a 33-yarder. He also was six-of-six on PATs.

Riley Zayas is the managing editor of True To The Cru. His work has been published by several media outlets since 2016, and he can be contacted at rileyzayas@truetothecru.com.

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