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Week 9 Football Preview: UMHB heads into home finale looking to get back in the win column against ETBU

Photo: Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com

ETBU Tigers at UMHB Crusaders | Nov. 4 | 1:00 p.m. | Belton, Texas

The regular season finale has arrived for the UMHB Football program this season, as the Crusaders (4-4, 3-1 ASC) host East Texas Baptist (5-3, 3-1 ASC) on Saturday at Crusader Stadium in UMHB’s ninth game of the year. Last week brought about a difficult 24-14 loss at Hardin-Simmons, which likely ended all hopes of The Cru claiming the American Southwest Conference title and reaching the NCAA Playoffs. 

But as Larry Harmon talked about at his press conference Monday, UMHB still has plenty to play for, especially against ETBU on senior day. After all, ETBU still has a chance at the ASC title (more on that below). This comprehensive game preview is presented by The Floor Store and More

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The Series

UMHB officially leads the all-time series between the two programs, 22-1. 

  • The Crusaders are 9-1 in matchups played in Belton, with the only loss coming in overtime, 28-21, in 2003. 
  • UMHB won last year’s meeting in Marshall, Texas, 24-7, as Kyle King threw a pair of touchdown passes and Durand Hill tallied 10 tackles. 
  • The closest contest between the two came just a few years ago, during the spring 2021 season, when UMHB got past the Tigers narrowly, 30-28, on a late fourth-quarter field goal from Anthony Avila. 
  • This marks the first coaching matchup between UMHB head coach Larry Harmon and ETBU head coach Calvin Ruzicka. Ruzicka, formerly ETBU’s defensive coordinator, was hired in mid-November 2022 as the program’s next head coach. 

A win over ETBU would…

…Give UMHB its 20th straight win over the Tigers dating back to the 2004 season, when UMHB beat ETBU, 60-33, on the road. 

…Be the 24th straight season for UMHB Football with at least five wins in a year, including the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign, when the Crusaders posted a 5-0 mark. 1999 was the last year in which UMHB finished with fewer than five wins, posting a 4-6 record. 

…Mark the 22nd straight season in which the Crusaders have won their final regular season home game. 2000 was the last time that did not happen, with Hardin-Simmons pulling out a 21-7 win in UMHB’s ninth game of the season. 

Seniors to be honored

Saturday marks Senior Day for the UMHB football program, who will honor the impact and contributions that these 21 seniors have made to the success of Crusader football. Below are the following graduating seniors who will be recognized: 

#2 Chaka Watson, #5 Kenneth Cormier, Jr., #6 Romello Cook, #7 Dorian Williams, #9 Titus Dunk, #12 Jackson Tingler, #13 Omari Frazier, #23 Ozias Wright, #29 Kenneth Miller, Jr., #32 Te’Ron Brown, #39 Brad Campbell, #42 Braegen Berry, #48 Hayes Chizer, #53 Jacob Dailey, #59 Ethan Ruckman, #77 Jesse Hoke, #81 Jawon Richards, #83 Dyrius Toliver, #88 Caleb Durham-Honer, #98 James Judie, student coach Jackson Tingley.

A Look at The Cru

UMHB is seeking to put last week’s loss in the rearview mirror as the Crusaders enter the final two games of the 2023 season. They will have formidable competition in both matchups, hosting ETBU before heading west to Howard Payne for the season finale. Coming off the loss to Hardin-Simmons, penalties are an area that Harmon and the team are looking to minimize. UMHB picked up 14 penalties for 113 yards against HSU and this season, is averaging 67.0 penalty yards per game. 

Offensively, UMHB ranks 109th in the nation in offensive yardage, at 368.5 yards per game. The rushing attack has increasingly gained traction and both Ozias Wright and Kenneth Cormier Jr. had significant gains on the ground against the HSU defense last week. Cormier has four rushing scores this season, and Wright, along with quarterback Isaac Phe, have three. Phe tallied both of UMHB’s touchdowns against HSU, running both in last week. As a passer, Phe has thrown for 183.9 yards per game, with a 62 percent completion rate and 15 touchdowns against just four interceptions. 

On the defensive side, the Crusaders are 28th in the country in yards allowed per game, with 260.4. HSU barely got above that average last week (273 yards), which is notable considering standout defensive lineman Mason Cavness did not play and the strength of HSU’s offense with quarterback Gaylon Glynn back in action. The Cru defense also has the second-lowest third-down conversion rate in the ASC, with opponents recording first downs on just 31.1 percent of their third-down plays. Pass defense is a strong suit for UMHB, with an experienced secondary that gives up just 141.9 yards per game through the air; the fewest of any defense in the conference. 

3 Players to Watch

LB Durand Hill: Hill ranks second in the ASC in tackles for loss, with 10.5 this season. The junior is an athletic playmaker from his spot at linebacker and tallied three solo tackles last week in Abilene. Look for him to make an impact, especially defending ETBU’s passing attack. 

WR Jerry Day Jr.: Day surpassed the 1,000-yard career receiving mark against HSU, with nine catches for 116 yards. The West Monroe, La. native is the team’s leading receiver, with 31 receptions for 385 yards.  

DB Trace Holmes: Holmes has steadily separated himself as a top contributor in the secondary, and leads UMHB with two interceptions. The sophomore is also the team’s third-leading tackler, with 40 tackles this season, and a skilled defender with great agility. 

Scouting the Tigers

Believe it or not, ETBU remains in ASC title contention. Yes, you read that right. 

The Tigers are 3-1 in league play, but have not yet played UMHB or Hardin-Simmons. Those matchups happen this week and next week, respectively, which makes Saturday’s contest especially important for ETBU. If they manage to pull out a win, it would quite literally set up an ASC Championship game in Marshall next week between the Tigers and Cowboys. 

Under new head coach Calvin Ruzicka, ETBU has at least five wins for the eighth straight season dating back to 2015. 

On offense, the Tigers come in averaging just 20.3 points per game, the second-fewest in the ASC. Quarterback Cornelius Banks has not returned to action after the Howard Payne game on Oct. 7, and in his absence, Carlos Garibay has stepped up. A sophomore, Garibay displayed improvement in each of his last three starts, but struggled to maintain consistency. His completion percentage, currently at 49 percent, is an area for growth, especially against a pass defense as tough as UMHB’s. 

Paul Woodard anchors the run game, as a sophomore running back who stands at 5-foot-9 and possesses remarkable speed. The Brazosport native leads the team with 285 rushing yards. Overall, the rushing unit has helped offset the passing attack as ETBU works to make adjustments in that facet of the offensive performance, and ETBU averages 109.9 rush yards per game. 

Defense has been a strength for ETBU as of late, much of that due to Ruzicka’s efforts as the defensive coordinator. ETBU is fourth in the conference in defensive efficiency, and is led by a number of talented players, including Jahkamian Carr and Robert Williams. Carr leads the league in tackles for loss, with 13.5, and Williams is tied for the lead in passes defended, with 10. In last week’s 24-10 win over Sul Ross State, ETBU held the Lobos to 104 yards passing and 107 yards rushing. The week prior against Texas Lutheran, the Bulldogs were held to six points and the Tigers ended two consecutive fourth-quarter drives with an interception, sealing the 16-6 win. 

3 Players to Watch

WR Trayjen Llanas-Wilcox: A native of nearby Cameron, Texas, the freshman standout leads the team with 29 receptions for 478 yards. He played his prep career at Yoe High School and has quickly established himself as a central part of ETBU’s passing game. 

WR/KR/PR Zay Thomas: A do-it-all kind of player for the Tigers. Thomas has 30 catches for 310 yards and should be another one of Garibay’s top receiving targets on Saturday. But he is also one of ETBU’s primary returners, with 14 kick returns for 231 yards and 12 punt returns for 98 yards. Thomas is fast and agile, and certainly has the potential to break a big return or two. 

DE Jahkamian Carr: ETBU’s top pass rusher has been incredibly tough for opposing offensive lines to stop this season, as Carr is an experienced junior on this Tiger defensive front. His seven sacks also lead the ASC and he enters this contest with 50 total tackles in 2023. 

ASC Regular Season Title scenarios

  • Hardin-Simmons wins the league title this week with a win over Austin College and a UMHB win over ETBU. HSU could also win it next week, regardless of this week’s result vs Austin College, with a win over ETBU. 
  • UMHB wins the league title with losses by HSU to Austin College and ETBU and wins over ETBU and Howard Payne
  • ETBU wins the league title with wins over UMHB and ETBU 

Follow the action

WATCH: UMHB will broadcast the game on cruathletics.com 

RADIO: Ward Whites and Jon Wallin will have the call from Belton on 93.9 FM/1330 AM in Temple/Belton. Also listen live on listen.streamon.fm/ktonam.

LIVE STATS: Stats will be available on cruathletics.com

Week 10 ASC Schedule

Howard Payne at Sul Ross State, 1:00 p.m., Alpine, Texas

Hardin-Simmons at Austin College, 1:00 p.m., Sherman, Texas

McMurry at Texas Lutheran, 1:00 p.m., Seguin, Texas

ETBU at UMHB, 1:00 p.m., Belton, Texas

One Reply to “Week 9 Football Preview: UMHB heads into home finale looking to get back in the win column against ETBU

  1. So maddening that we are even in this situation. Coaches and players need to take a long, looooooooooong look at themselves and what they want.

    just ridiculous

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