10 seasons ago, UMHB and Texas Lutheran played a unique playoff game that featured two lengthy weather delays, 400+ rushing yards, and finished 25 hours after it kicked off
Photo courtesy of Texas Lutheran Athletics from the Nov. 22, 2014 playoff game at UMHB
It tends to be more of a footnote than anything else, but when scrolling through the 2014 UMHB Football schedule, you are likely to notice something unique as you near the bottom of the 12-game slate; a matchup that played out on a Sunday.
The setting was a First Round playoff game. The opponent was Texas Lutheran, a rising program that UMHB had beaten 72-16 just four weeks prior in the regular season. The fact that football was played in Belton on a Sunday is certainly out of the ordinary. The fact that the game kicked off 25 hours before it finished is another.
Wykeyhe Walker remembers taking the field at Crusader Stadium on that November afternoon with lightning and storms imminent. “We expected a weather delay at some point,” the wide receiver recalls. Storms were certainly in the forecast, with the temperature hovering below 70 degrees and 10+ mile-an-hour winds blowing to the southeast.
“The atmosphere was actually great,” Walker said. “I don’t know how, with the weather being what it was. But our fans showed up.”
With just over 11 minutes left in the second quarter, the first lightning delay hit, with UMHB leading 14-10. Originally, Walker says, they expected to be in the locker room for about 45 minutes. As it turned out, they waited it out for six hours.
“Our guys, with the success that we had up until that first lightning delay, were ready to get back on the field,” current UMHB offensive coordinator Andy Padron, who was TLU’s offensive coordinator in 2014, recalled. “They felt that we had [UMHB] on the ropes a little bit. So they were itching to get back out there.”
As it turned out, they got back on the field, played about three minutes, and headed back to the locker room, thanks to a second lightning delay. TLU was on UMHB’s 28-yard line, charging downfield behind their rushing attack. But the Bulldogs did not get a chance to extend the drive until 11:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.
Though Baylor and Oklahoma State braved heavy downpours 45 minutes to the north in Waco and were able to finish as scheduled, UMHB and TLU had no such the luck. The lighting hung around Belton into the early morning, forcing the NCAA to make an exception.
It is an exception that has rarely been made through the years, especially in a playoff setting. There was once a regular season matchup between Wheaton and North Central that started on a Saturday and finished on a Monday, due to weather and Wheaton’s rule against playing on Sundays. Bridgewater and Lycoming’s 2003 playoff quarterfinal was pushed back a full day due to an ice storm and an unplayable field. But the fact that this was in the postseason, and the game had already twice been started, then stopped, added to the uniqueness.
“Even if we had gotten back out there at 11 or 11:30 p.m., it still wouldn’t have finished until 1 a.m.,” Padron noted. “And [the storm] didn’t look like it was moving anywhere.”
And here is where it becomes interesting.
Plenty of times throughout a season, lengthy weather delays arise. UMHB has already dealt with one this season, as its Week 3 matchup with UW-Whitewater, originally scheduled for 12 p.m., did not end up kicking off until 3 p.m.
But what made this one unique was that the contest did not just halt for a handful of hours. It was halted through the night and into the next morning. And to think that both fans and teams arrived at Crusader Stadium on Saturday expecting to see a final score well before the sun even set.
What transpired was, in many ways, more similar to an 1800s military battle than a football game, from a strategic standpoint. Both sides came out in full force on Saturday, and fought hard for a quarter-and-a-half.
But then night fell, and both sides eagerly awaited a return to the battle field the following day, with UMHB leading 14-10. Both coaching staffs were engaged in a sort of chess match, anticipating the other side’s next move when play resumed, and perhaps making adjustments where necessary, based on what had already been seen of the opponent’s gameplan.
“I felt like that delay helped us, to be honest,” Walker remembered. “[TLU] came in with a really good gameplan. Their idea was to keep our offense off the field, and they had a good running back. We obviously made our adjustments on that second day and we were able to open up some things.”
As the underdog, TLU was put in a tougher position with the lengthy delay, as the initial element of surprise wore off with every hour. It challenged their chances to keep the first-quarter momentum intact.
“For us, that gameplan is what we had worked on all week,” Padron said. “We weren’t going to stray too far from it. We knew that they’d come back and have a different way to play us, but we’d wait to see what their adjustments were and then go from there. We just went with what we had.”
Though they hadn’t set up their gameplan with the knowledge of heavy rain in the forecast, the weather conditions played directly into the Bulldogs’ favor. Behind that stellar rushing attack, TLU had 31 first downs to UMHB’s 10, 24 of those coming on running plays. The Bulldogs accumulated 308 yards
“During the whole week of practice, we knew that we were going to run it, and drain the clock,” Padron added. “And then throw a couple high percentage passes when we needed to. As the week went on, we saw there was a chance for rain, and thought, ‘Oh, even better!’”
UMHB had a few plays ready too, one of which was a 73-yard passing play from Zach Anderson to Walker, which went down as the longest play of the contest. It also tied the score early in the first quarter.
“We practiced that play so much that week, that was the one we knew we’d get once,” Walker recalls.
Preparation was key for both teams. Expect the unexpected, right? In a lot of ways, Walker credits the coaching staff’s preparedness for UMHB’s response on Sunday, and 27-20 victory.
“The way that our coaches prepared us for that entire season, we were pretty disciplined,” Walker says. “We went back to the team hotel and everybody was still locked in. There wasn’t any motivation necessary. But it was definitely different. The coaches did well in preparing us for that second day. I have to give them props for that.”
TLU took a similar approach, though the Bulldogs also had to contend with trying to wash and dry uniforms as the delays carried through Saturday and into Sunday.
“The hard part for us, we only had one jersey,” Padron noted. “UMHB, being at home, had all of their jerseys right there. We didn’t have another set of jerseys, so we’re there in the washateria trying to wash and dry out the jerseys, socks, everything.”
It certainly had its challenges for both teams. After all, just the simple fact of waking up sore from playing over a quarter of hard-hitting football, and then having to go do it all over again a few hours later, made for an uphill battle in some cases, especially for the running backs.
Once play resumed, the crowd inside Crusader Stadium was treated to a thrilling finish. For the most part, despite UMHB’s adjustments, TLU controlled possession and ran 99 plays in the game, compared to just 35 for UMHB. With 1:36 left, TLU cut UMHB’s lead to 27-20, and got the ball back with 37 seconds. The Bulldogs lofted a Hail Mary pass to the end zone on the game’s final play, as UMHB’s Kris Brown pulled down an interception, securing a dramatic win.
Regardless of outcome, all who were there were involved in something unique. And it created lasting memories of perhaps the only NCAA playoff game to start on Saturday afternoon and finish 25 hours later.
“Believe it or not, that was one of my favorite games,” Walker added. “You’re just sitting there with your brothers, joking and not taking life too seriously. It was one of the best times I had with my teammates.”
Special thank you to D3football.com’s Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan who assisted with historical aspects of this article