BELTON- A rematch of last year’s NCAA playoff semifinal headlines the UMHB football team’s non-conference schedule, as the Crusaders prepare for their quest in defending the 2021 Stagg Bowl title. It is a strong, yet challenging schedule, with three of 2021’s Top 10 teams facing the Cru within the first month of the season.
For several weeks, there was question as to who UMHB’s week two opponent would be. But the question no longer stands: Larry Harmon’s first road game as UMHB’s head coach will be against Wisconsin-Whitewater, a program the Cru has faced in each of the last two seasons that the NCAA playoffs have been contested.
In frigid conditions on Dec. 11, the Crusader defense shut down the rushing attack of the Warhawks, and clinched a 24-7 victory that sent UMHB back to the Stagg Bowl following a one-year absence. Now, less than a year later, the Cru will head to Wisconsin looking to do the same thing, this time in the regular season.
UMHB has played UW-Whitewater eight times in program history, the last six of which have come in the postseason. In 2006 and 2007, the two opponents arranged a home-and-home series, with the Warhawks defeating the Cru 7-3 in Belton in 2006, before a 2007 meeting was won by UW-Whitewater at home, 41-14.
The same format of a home-and-home arrangement will be set this time, a UMHB spokesperson told True To The Cru, meaning it will be a two-year agreement between the two programs. With UMHB traveling to Whitewater this season, the Warhawks will make the trip to Belton in 2023.
Prior to that road showdown, UMHB opens the season with another exceptional D-III power, Muhlenberg. The Mules went 11-2 in 2021, reaching the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Playoffs before falling 35-29 to Mount Union in overtime. They went 8-1 in Centennial Conference play, and finished the year ranked No. 7 in D3football.com’s final Top 25 poll. Historically a competitive program come playoff time, the Mules are one of just six programs-UMHB and UW-Whitewater are included in that group- to be ranked in the final Top 10 of each of the last three seasons.
The kickoff time for that Sept. 3 matchup at Crusader Stadium is set for 6 p.m. CT.
Once into conference play, the road does not get much easier. The ASC opener at home against Southwestern on Sept. 17 is followed by what is anticipated to be another Top 10 matchup between UMHB and Hardin-Simmons in Abilene. The annual rivalry clash, set for Sept. 24 at 6 p.m., has seen a number of competitive games play out in recent years, though the Cru has won 23 of the last 25 meetings between the programs, with HSU’s last win coming in 2015. The last time the game was contested in Abilene, the programs squared off in the 2021 spring ASC title game. with UMHB winning 27–15. The Crusaders are 10-2 all-time at HSU’s Shelton Stadium.
After facing three Top 10 opponents in the first month of the season, UMHB hosts Austin College in Belton on Oct. 1 prior to a duel with ETBU. Then it is back to the road, as Texas Lutheran hosts the Cru for the first time since 2018 in Seguin. Last year’s meeting saw UMHB roll to a 49-3 victory over the Bulldogs.
Even with four of their first seven on the road, the Crusaders get just two more chances to play in front of their home crowd during the regular season: an Oct. 22 matchup against Sul Ross State, and the regular season finale on Nov. 12 against McMurry. Sandwiched between those two is a bye week and a road duel at Howard Payne in Brownwood.
Week 1: Muhlenberg- Sept. 3, 6:00 p.m., Belton, TX
Week 2: Wisconsin-Whitewater-Sept. 10, 12 p.m., Whitewater, WI
Week 3: Southwestern-Sept. 17, 6:00 p.m., Belton, TX
Week 4: Hardin-Simmons-Sept. 24, 6:00 p.m., Abilene, TX
Week 5: Austin College-Oct. 1, 2:00 p.m., Belton, TX
Week 6: ETBU-Oct. 8, 1:00 p.m., Marshall, TX
Week 7: Texas Lutheran-Oct. 15, 1:00 p.m., Seguin, TX
Week 8: Sul Ross State-Oct. 22, 1:00 p.m., Belton, TX
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: Howard Payne-Nov. 5, 1:00 p.m., Brownwood, TX
Week 11: McMurry-Nov. 12, 1:00 p.m., Belton, TX