Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru
ABILENE, Texas- Entering Saturday’s regular season finale at McMurry, UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg spoke of “pushing the accelerator”, as the Crusaders enter the D-III playoffs next week.
The Cru certainly increased its pace in Saturday’s 77-3 victory over the Warhawks, especially offensively, as McMurry’s defense had no answer. Not for Kyle King, back as the starter at quarterback after missing the last two games. Not for receiver KJ Miller, who had a quick start in the receiving game. Not for running back Kenneth Cormier, who had two touchdowns.
“I told them before that I wanted to walk away after the game with a good feeling about our football team and where we’re moving,” Fredenburg said on the Fox Sports Central Texas radio broadcast postgame. “I think 77-3 is a pretty good indication of being satisfied with a lot of things we did well.”
UMHB did plenty on the defensive side of the ball as well, limiting the Warhawk offense to a mere 180 yards of total offense, and 11 first downs. UMHB allowed just three points or less for the fifth time in the regular season.
In last week’s 59-14 win over Howard Payne, the Crusaders opened the game trailing 14-0 before roaring back to claim the lead. No such comeback was needed in Abilene on Saturday, as Miller put UMHB up 7-0 by the 11:35 mark of the opening quarter, taking a 28 yard punt from McMurry 79 yards to the end zone. It was the beginning of a notable day for the senior, who followed up last week’s record-breaking 12-reception performance with four catches for 67 yards and a receiving touchdown.
After Miller’s punt return score, the Cru wasted little time extending the advantage, as King, back in action after a turf toe injury, found Brandon Jordan for a 15-yard touchdown pass four minutes later. That pass capped an eight-play, 58 yard drive, and UMHB managed to find the end zone on its next four possessions, mounting a 49-0 lead by halftime.
“That’s what we really wanted to do,” Fredenburg said of the quick start from the offense on Fox Sports Central Texas radio. “We will find some areas on film that we could’ve done better, but by and large, I think everybody is walking off the field very satisfied. That’s a great place to be moving into the playoffs.”
Of those seven-first half scores, two came on the ground from Cormier, who crossed the goal line on gains of five and two yards. Running back Aphonso Thomas added a two-yard score of his own to make it 21-0 with 3:23 in the first quarter, before King found Miller from 19 yards out less than a minute into the second.
The lead only increased in the second half, as McMurry was repeatedly forced to punt, and the UMHB offense moved easily up the field. The Crusaders were eight-of-eight on red zone opportunities, seven-of-nine on third downs and tallied 546 total yards of offense.
There are certain things that can only be fully practiced in a game itself, such as onside kick recoveries, something McMurry tried after a 23-yard field goal with 9:51 in the fourth. That field goal marked the Warhawks’ lone scoring play of the contest, and the ensuing onside kick took a high bounce, as McMurry tried to keep the ball out of the Crusader offense’s hands. But Marc Gutierrez pulled down the kick, displaying great hands as the ball was recovered on the 50-yard line.
Gutierrez was one of several players who saw action for the purple and gold in the contest. UMHB used three quarterbacks and four running backs, with solid execution from each of them.
Running back Montana Miller made a phenomenal play with 7:44 in fourth, catching a pass from Ryan Redding in the flat, cutting back and racing 32 yards for the score. It marked his first receiving touchdown of the year.
That was not the last of UMHB’s scoring however, as sophomore quarterback Jackson Tingler found receiver Jamaal Hamilton down the sideline, completing a 60-yard touchdown pass with under three minutes to play.
“I think everybody played,” Fredenburg noted in the postgame radio interview. “We went through three quarterbacks and four running backs. All of them performed admirably. We’re pleased.”
King finished 9-of-17 passing for 154 yards and three scores, while Cormier led the rushing attack with 86 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Defensively, Tristan Green had a team-best five tackles, four solo, and Josh Patteson contributed with three tackles for loss. 20 Crusaders recorded at least one solo tackle.
UMHB finishes the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record, and will learn of its playoff seeding on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. CT.