Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
BELTON-After winning its first game of the season against McMurry in Week 4, UMHB Football headed straight into its bye week, or “Cru Week”, as it is called within the program.
But starting with this Saturday’s road tilt at Texas Lutheran, there will not be another weekend that goes by in the 2023 regular season in which UMHB does not take the field. With four games down, and six to go, the Crusaders are ready to continue their push towards an American Southwest Conference title, and a spot in the D-III Playoffs.
“We believe we’re a good football team,” UMHB head coach Larry Harmon said Monday. “I know people keep talking like our season is over and we’re a dead team, but we’re not. We’re in the hunt for the conference right now. We just need to keep getting better and stay focused on that. Take it one game at a time.”
As UMHB preps for its third road game of 2023, here are three takeaways from Harmon’s weekly press conference on Monday.
Utilizing a unique week
Plenty of teams approach an open date differently. Some look to give their players rest, others focus on getting players previously injured back up to game-speed. There is almost always a portion of the week dedicated to getting a head start on preparing for the next opponent. So how did UMHB spend its week of practice, without a game to look towards on Saturday?
“We did 50 percent of our practices just concentrating on us and trying to get better,” Harmon said. “We used 25 percent to work on fundamentals, individual drills and things like that. And then we did 25 percent against TLU.
“I thought the kids were bought in. We definitely got better. We’ll find out here this Saturday if what we did was beneficial and improved our team like we think it did.”
Going “good on good” in practice has major upside
Harmon was asked later in the press conference about the fact of the best on both sides of the ball facing each other in practice, as he spoke of earlier, and the value that brings to UMHB’s development. With talented athletes at every position, head-to-head matchups between the starting offensive and defensive players in a practice setting are often a notable contributor to success on Saturdays.
“That’s championship football for us,” Harmon responded. “That’s how we built this program. You have to be tough. You have to be physical if you’re going to win in the playoffs. It’s a way for us to make sure that all of our little steps and technique work is accurate.
“Because when you go against scouts or go against lesser people, you get away with bad steps, or bad technique, just because you’re more talented than the guy that you’re going against. But when we go good on good, all of these little flaws just show up. It’s a way for our guys to see exactly where they are on that particular play that particular day.”
It is especially key considering the fact that within UMHB’s program, a high level of commitment and effort is expected daily, not just when the pads are put on for game days. Nothing less than maximum attention to detail and focus is expected, which translates into game settings.
“It keeps the pressure on to perform,” Harmon continued. “There’s no such thing as having a bad day here. If you have a bad day, you lose your spot. So it’s very important for us that we do that. We know we’re walking a fine line, because once in a while, there is an injury. But if you don’t do that, you’re never really improving your technique.”
Looking at Texas Lutheran
The Bulldogs enter Saturday’s matchup with an identical record to that of The Cru, sitting at 1-3 after consecutive losses to Ave Maria (FL) and Sul Ross State. TLU is the lone ASC team that has not yet played a conference game, as last week’s heart-breaking 37-34 loss to Sul Ross State did not count towards the Bulldogs’ conference record due to SRSU being in the transition process to D-II.
At home for just the second time this season, TLU is certainly prepared and motivated for Saturday’s contest. With an uncharacteristic performance from senior quarterback Seth Cosme–who threw four interceptions–and the offense as a whole, TLU dug itself into a 21-0 deficit against SRSU before eventually catching fire with 24 fourth-quarter points. Looking to put that loss behind them, Harmon expects nothing less than TLU’s best.
“They’re very physical,” Harmon noted of the Bulldog offense. “They’re going to make you stop the run. And then when you load the box up, they’re going to try to throw it over your head. They’re not one-dimensional.
“They have a lot of different play-action concepts off of their run action that allows them on first down to get a cheap four or five yards, make it 2nd & 5, and then go to work with their ground game.”
Each week of the conference schedule is a step closer to UMHB’s postseason aspirations, and the Crusaders are taking those steps seriously, understanding the magnitude that each ASC matchup has on a team whose only path to the playoffs runs through taking home the conference crown.
“It’s Step 2 of 7 that we have to get through,” he added. “We’ve put in the work and we’ll continue to put in the work to be prepared to play our best game down in Seguin.”