Playoff Preview: No. 19 Birmingham-Southern at No. 2 UMHB

The UMHB football team continues its playoff run on Saturday, hosting Birmingham-Southern in a second-round matchup.

No. 19 Birmingham-Southern at No. 2 UMHB
Date: Nov. 27

Place: Crusader Stadium, Belton, Texas

Time: 12 p.m. CT

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

READ: Jefferson Fritz embracing multiple roles for UMHB football in midst of playoff run

READ: From 1-9 to 9-1 within five season, Birmingham-Southern preparing for round matchup at UMHB

READ: UMHB football prepared for second-round matchup vs BSC

About the opponent:Birmingham-Southern Panthers (Ranked No. 19 by D3football.com)

Head Coach: Tony Joe White (5th season) 

Conference: Southern Athletic Association

Season Record (overall/conf): 10-1, 6-1 (Notable results: at Huntington, W 49-8, at Centre, W 28-21, vs Trinity (TX), L 27-28, vs Huntington, W 28-14)

How they got here: After a 6-1 record in SAA play, BSC clinched one of the nation’s five at-large playoff berths. The Panthers lone loss of the regular season came against Trinity, when they failed to convert a two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter, and fell by a single point. In the first round of the playoffs, BSC took down regional foe Huntington, 24-14, at home.

Names to know: 

OFFENSE: Sr. QB Trey Patterson (110-of-186 passing, 1,794 yds, 14 TD, 4 INT, 429 rush yds, 7 TD),  Sr. RB Robert Shufford (1,296 rush yds, 6.4 yds/carry, 19 TD), Sr. RB Tavion Fleming (584 rush yds, 7.2 yds/carry,  6 TD), Sr. WR Brandon Rew (30 receptions, 642 receiving yds, 6 TD)

DEFENSE: Sr. LB Cort Coley (76 total tackles, 37 solo tackles, 9.0 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 1 INT), Sr. LB Cameron DeArman (50 total tackles, 32 solo tackles, 12.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks), Jr. DL Garrett Smith (24 total tackles, 11 solo tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks), Sr. DB Jimmy Anderson (35 total tackles, 24 solo tackles, 1 INT, 6 pass breakups)

National Offense Ranking (total yards of offense per game): No. 18 (463.5YPG)

National Defense Ranking (total yards allowed per game): No. 9 (219.3 YPG)

About the UMHB Crusaders

Head Coach: Pete Fredenburg (23rd season)

Conference: American Southwest

Season Record (overall/conf): 11-0, 9-0 (Notable results: vs No. 10 Hardin-Simmons, W 34-28, vs Howard Payne, W 59-14, vs Belhaven, W 29-0, vs No. 16 Trinity, W 13-3) 

How they got here: UMHB breezed through the regular season, opening up with an 84-6 victory in its lone non-conference game against Simpson College, before winning its 17th ASC title. The Crusaders’ closest game came at home on Sept. 27, when Hardin-Simmons posted a 28-7 halftime lead before UMHB rallied back to shut out the Cowboys in the second half and win 34-28. The Cru defeated Trinity 13-3 in the first round behind a late, 17-yard rushing touchdown from Aphonso Thomas. 

Names to know: 

OFFENSE: Sr. QB Kyle King (100-of-162 passing, 1,464 pass yds, 24 TD, 2 INT), Jr. RB Aphonso Thomas (870 rush yds, 6.0 yds/carry, 11 TD), Sr. WR KJ Miller (45 receptions, 630 receiving yds, 7 TD), Sr. WR Brandon Jordan (30 receptions, 570 receiving yards, 10 TD)

DEFENSE: Sr. LB Jacob Mueller (74 total tackles, 44 solo tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks), Sr. LB Akeem Jackson (53 total tackles, 24 solo tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss, 1 INT), Sr. S Jefferson Fritz (44 total tackles, 29 solo tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, 6 pass breakups), Sr. CB Keith Gipson (39 total tackles, 28 solo tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 5 INT) 

National Offense Ranking (total yards of offense per game): No. 15 (475.6YPG)

National Defense Ranking (total yards allowed per game): No. 7 (207.6 YPG)

The Series

This is the first time these two programs have met. 

Three storylines to watch 

Establishing the running game: For both BSC and UMHB, establishing a solid running game early has been critical in each team’s offensive success. The Panthers, led by senior Robert Shufford, rank No. 8 in the country in rushing offense (294.1 yds/game), and earlier this week, BSC head coach Tony Joe White noted, “If we’re able to establish some kind of success running the ball, then typically we have good days.” 

UMHB is 16th in the nation in rushing offense, behind the performances of Aphonso Thomas, who had 118 yards last week, and Kenneth Cormier. The Crusaders have had plenty of rushing success as of late, powered behind a strong offensive line that has improved over the course of the season. 

UMHB defensive front to counter the BSC rushing attack: The UMHB defense was critical in the Crusaders’ first-round win over Trinity, as the Tiger offense was held at bay after an early field goal, and limited to just 22 net rushing yards. Linebacker Akeem Jackson tallied 11 tackles, 2.5 for loss, in the win, and he will be critical once again in stopping the BSC offense. The Cru undoubtedly has one of the top linebacker units in the country, with Jackson and seniors Mikkah Hackett and Jacob Mueller. Together, they have done a little bit of everything, combining for 129 total tackles, 27 for loss, one interception, and seven pass breakups. 

BSC can also throw the ball well, especially on play-action passess, which will create an interesting matchup against UMHB, who is sixth in D-III in fewest passing yards allowed per game (129.9). 

Top-level punt return game: UMHB has earned great field position on countless drives this season, due to an incredible punt return game led by KJ Miller and Jefferson Fritz. Miller, with an average of  28.60 yards per return, has tallied 572 yards on 20 punt returns this season. The senior, who also plays wide receiver for the Cru, is just 116 return yards shy of breaking Geoff Myles’ 2010 single-season punt return yardage record. 

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

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

Wide Receiver: Brenton Martin (Sr. 2L), Jerry Day (Fr.-TR)

Wide Receiver: KJ Miller (Sr.-2L), Jamaal Hamilton (Jr.-TR)

Wide Receiver: Brandon Jordan (Sr.-1L), DJ Weaver (Sr.-2L)

Tight 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), Kobe Giles (So.-1L)

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

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