Photo: UMHB makes a tackle against Austin College in a 38-7 win on Oct. 1, 2022 (Photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com)
UMHB heads on the road for the second time in conference play this week, looking to extend its win streak as the homestretch of the regular season begins. Austin College is UMHB’s fourth ASC opponent on the slate (though the contest against Sul Ross State did not count towards the league record due to SRSU transitioning to D-II), and will be the final matchup for The Cru before taking on Hardin-Simmons in Abilene in a game between two Top 25 programs. Here is a look at both teams, the history between the programs, and how to follow the action in Sherman, presented by Montgomery Chiropractic.
All-Time Series History
UMHB is 8-2 against Austin College dating back to The Cru’s inaugural season in 1998. UMHB lost in its first two meetings with the ‘Roos, but has won every matchup played in the 21st century. The two faced off every year from 1998-2005, but did not meet again until Oct. 2, 2021, when UMHB posted a 56-0 shutout in Sherman. It is possible that another break in the series is upcoming, as Austin College prepares to move its football program back to the SCAC starting in 2024. Hence, this marks the final meeting in ASC play between UMHB and the ‘Roos before the conference switch happens.
A look at The Cru
After an 0-3 start, UMHB has won its last three games, improving to .500 overall and a perfect 3-0 in conference play. The Crusaders displayed noticeable improvement in each of the last three victories, and come off a 37-13 win over SRSU last Saturday in Belton. UMHB’s defense shut out the Lobos in the second half of that victory, and outscored SRSU 21-0 over the final two quarters.
UMHB’s offense has found its most success when the Crusaders are balanced, keeping the opposing defense guessing between the run and the pass. The passing attack enters its seventh matchup of the year averaging 221.8 yards per game, which ranks No. 4 in the ASC. The rushing game has also taken a significant step forward, with three quality running backs in Ozias Wright, Kenneth Cormier Jr., and Kenneth Miller Jr., and averages 124.3 yards per contest. The Crusader offense has an 81.5 percent success rate in the red zone, with 22 of its 27 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line resulting in points.
Defensively, the Crusaders are still seeking their first shutout of the year, but have locked down against all three ASC offenses they have faced up to this point. UMHB’s defense has established itself as the No. 1 passing defense in the conference, giving up just 152.7 yards per game. The Cru is No. 2 in the ASC in defensive efficiency, with its run defense allowing just 3.0 yards per rushing attempt. All in all, UMHB allows the fewest total yards per game (277.0) of anyone in the league.
3 Players to Watch
RB Ozias Wright: Wright added to his touchdown total against SRSU with a 20-yard rushing score in the fourth quarter, and led UMHB in rushing yardage. An agile, strong ballcarrier, Wright ranks No. 1 in the ASC in rushing yards per attempt, with 11.4 yards/carry. Wright averages 59.2 yards per game, the fifth-highest mark in the league.
WR Jerry Day Jr.: The junior is one of quarterback Isaac Phe’s top receiving targets, with a team-best 18 catches for 229 yards and four touchdowns. Day, at 6-foot-2, is quick off the line of scrimmage, and a matchup problem for opposing secondaries. Through ASC play, Day has 11 receptions with two 40+ yard receiving performances.
DE Myles Terry: A force on UMHB’s defensive front, Terry ranks No. 4 in the conference in tackles for loss, with 7.0 for a loss of 19 yards. Through six games, Terry recorded 32 total tackles and 2.5 sacks, and is a strong pass rusher that should challenge the Austin College offensive line.
Scouting Austin College
As was noted in Riley Zayas’ 3 Takeaways article on Monday after Larry Harmon’s press conference, AC has a different look this season under new head coach Tony Joe White. That is especially true offensively, as the ‘Roos utilize the passing game much more now than they did under the previous coaching staff in each of the previous two matchups with UMHB.
A Texas native, and the former head coach at Birmingham-Southern, White took the reins of the AC program early in 2023, and has brought some of the same offensive concepts to Sherman that he found success with in Birmingham. AC is 1-5 this season, with the lone win coming at Crown College (MN). However, the ‘Roos have stayed competitive in their contests, falling by just 12 points to Nebraska Wesleyan and two points at Rhodes. Last week at Howard Payne, AC gave up 35 first-half points, but held HPU scoreless over the final two quarters.
On offense, AC averages just under 100 rushing yards per game (99.8), while tallying 173.2 passing yards per contest. The ‘Roos stay relatively balanced, though the run game has not found a great deal of traction, averaging just 2.3 yards per carry. Five of AC’s seven passing touchdowns have come through the air. Sustaining offensive drives is an area for improvement as White continues working to incorporate a new offensive system in Sherman; AC has just 76 first downs this season. The ‘Roos average just 15.2 first downs per game and are the only team in the league with fewer than 110 total first downs this season.
Defensively, the ‘Roos have had points of success, and are efficient when it comes to stopping the run. Passing yardage has been the challenge for AC’s defense this season, as the ‘Roos allow 274.8 passing yards per game, which ranks as the most in the ASC. Opponents complete 64.4 percent of their passes against the defense. However, against the run, AC is No. 2 in the league in fewest yards per game (92.2) as one of only two teams in the league giving up an average of fewer than 100 rushing yards in each contest.
3 Players To Watch
QB Jaylon Talton: A true freshman, Talton is a dual-threat quarterback with speed and quickness in the backfield. Just last week, he ran for 66 yards against HPU, and has improved week-to-week as a passer as well. In each of AC’s last three games, Talton threw for over 100 yards. His dual-threat ability makes him a challenge for a defense, especially if the offensive line steps up and sacks are avoided.
LB Colton Gerken: An experienced component of the AC defense, Gerken leads the team with 58.0 total tackles, and five tackles for loss. His two interceptions are also a team-high. The leadership that Gerken brings to the defense is valuable, especially with a new coaching staff leading the program, and his versatility makes him a force in both run and pas defense.
K/P John Aldridge: One of the ASC’s veteran kickers and punters, Aldridge is 4-of-6 on field goal attempts this season, with a long of 41 yards. He converted on three field goals at HPU last week, and is also a perfect 4-for-4 on extra-point attempts. As a punter, the Richardson, Texas native is even better, leading the ASC in yards per punt (43.9). Four of his punts have gone for 50 yards or more.
Kickoff at 1 p.m. CT
WATCH: @ACrootv on YouTube
LISTEN: Ward Whites and Jon Wallin will once again have the call over the airwaves for the UMHB broadcast on Fox Sports Central Texas. Listen on 93.9 FM in Temple/Belton or on http://listen.streamon.fm/ktonam.
STATS: Live stats can be found on acroos.com
Week 8 ASC Schedule
Hardin-Simmons at Sul Ross State, 12:00 p.m., Alpine, Texas
Howard Payne at McMurry, 1:00 p.m., Abilene, Texas
UMHB at Austin College, 1:00 p.m., Sherman, Texas
ETBU at Texas Lutheran, 4:00 p.m., Seguin, Texas