Photo: Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
Mary Hardin-Baylor (5-4, 4-1 ASC) at Howard Payne (6-3, 3-2 ASC)
Brownwood, Texas (Gordon Wood Stadium) | Saturday, November 11 at 1 p.m. CT
The season finale is here for UMHB Football, as The Cru travels to Brownwood on Saturday for a matchup against a tough Howard Payne team. The Yellow Jackets want this win badly, as do the Crusaders, with both teams aiming to end their 2023 seasons with a victory. We break down the matchup, players to watch, and more, in this comprehensive preview brought to you by Montgomery Chiropractic.
UMHB enters Saturday’s matchup with a 23-2 record against Howard Payne and has won the last 17 meetings.
- In games played in Brownwood, UMHB is 10-2.
- The last time HPU defeated The Cru was on Oct. 8, 2005, when a crowd of 1,500 watched the Yellow Jackets score a 3-yard Brandon Tolbert reception with two seconds left in regulation. HPU won it, 24-20. UMHB running back Justin Bryson had 126 rushing yards in the loss.
- Last year’s meeting saw UMHB edge past HPU in a back-and-forth contest that the Crusaders ended up winning, 27-24. UMHB led 14-13 at halftime, and 24-16 early in the fourth quarter, but a 6-yard touchdown pass from Landon McKinney with 31 seconds left tied the score at 24 after a two-point conversion. Anthony Avila ended up winning the game on a 44-yard field goal as time expired.
- This marks the first time that HPU head coach Kevin Bachtel has faced UMHB while leading the program, though he went up against UMHB in each of the last two years as HPU’s defensive coordinator. A TAMU-Commerce graduate, Bachtel is in his first season as head coach of the Yellow Jackets.
A win over HPU would…
…Give UMHB at least six wins in a season for the 23rd time in program history
…Allow UMHB to finish conference play with one loss or fewer for the 24th straight season
…Give UMHB a record of .500 or better in road games for the 24th consecutive year (UMHB is currently 2-3 in road games this season)
…Be UMHB’s 25th win in a regular season finale in program history
A Look at The Cru
UMHB enters this matchup with a 5-4 record, having taken down ETBU 21-12 after going into halftime tied 12-12 with the Tigers last Saturday. The Crusaders are looking to finish the season on a high note, with consecutive wins over conference foes in head coach Larry Harmon’s second season leading The Cru.
Offensively, UMHB averages 30.9 points per game, and has been prone to slow starts on that side of the ball. But when the offense finds traction, the Crusaders can be difficult to stop, especially when the rushing attack is in rhythm. With three experienced running backs in Kenneth Cormier Jr., Kenneth Miller Jr., and Ozias Wright, UMHB’s run game has improved over the course of the season, and now averages 141.8 yards per game. Through the air, quarterback Isaac Phe has the third-most passing touchdowns of any ASC quarterback this season, with 16. He completes 60.6 percent of his passes, and when the pass protection is at top-quality, the passing attack can lead to points quickly. A number of different pass-catchers have emerged, with seven different players recording at least 12 catches this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, UMHB is led by linebacker Durand Hill, who has 76 total tackles. The Crusaders come off a strong showing against ETBU, as they sacked ETBU quarterback Carlos Garibay eight times, which is a season-high. In fact, UMHB is tied for first in sacks in the ASC, with 28 this season. Opponents convert on just 31.4 percent of their third-down attempts, which ranks No. 2 in the league behind HPU. The Crusaders are also the only defense in the conference allowing fewer than 300 total yards of offense per game (249.0).
3 Players to Watch
WR Jerry Day Jr.: Day is a dynamic receiving threat, and though Isaac Phe only completed eight passes against ETBU, four of those went to Day, who tallied 35 yards in the win. He leads the team in receptions this season, with 35, and needs eight receptions to tie his previous single-season best, which was set last season.
DE Myles Terry: Terry ranks third in the ASC in sacks this season, in large part due to his 2.5 sack performance against ETBU last week. He is quick as an edge rusher, and gets into the opposing backfield well. He also has 12.0 tackles for loss, which is a team-high. If Terry gets to McKinney too many times, the HPU offense may struggle to put points on the board.
DB Dorian Williams: Williams tallied his third interception of the season against ETBU, and put UMHB’s offense in prime field position. He has been solid in pass coverage throughout this season, and as a senior, has quality experience that serves UMHB’s secondary well. Williams has 35 tackles and needs four more to surpass his tackle total from 2022.
Scouting Howard Payne
The Yellow Jackets enter the season finale coming off a disappointing 47-42 loss at Sul Ross State last week, despite quarterback Landon McKinney throwing for 471 yards. HPU is 6-3, with a 3-2 record in the ASC, through head coach Kevin Bachtel’s first year at the helm of the program.
Offense has long been a strength for HPU, with McKinney leading the way at quarterback. Utilizing an air-raid style of offense, HPU throws the ball an average of 41.2 times per game for an average of 384.9 yards per game, both of which lead the ASC. HPU also has 32 touchdown passes this season, 23 of which are credited to McKinney. UMHB’s secondary will need to be prepared for the intense passing attack, and it will be a much different type of team than UMHB has faced in the last several games, considering HPU runs the ball infrequently, especially on key downs, and for an average of just 86 yards per game.
Defensively, the Yellow Jackets rank No. 4 in the ASC in fewest yards allowed per game (342.8) and points allowed per game (21.9). HPU’s staunch approach to the run has paid off, as the Yellow Jackets lead the league in allowing the fewest rushing yards per game, at 108.2. While the secondary has given up its fair share of big yardage plays via the pass, HPU has the most interceptions of any team in the conference, with 13.
3 Players to Watch
QB Landon McKinney: The senior is incredibly strong in the pass game, especially when he has a solid offensive line playing in front of him. He ranks fourth in the nation in passing yards this season, having tallied 2,899. With 101 passing yards against UMHB, McKinney would record the first 3,000-yard year of his collegiate career. His 23:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio is amongst the best in the ASC, and with his experience level, he is a threat to any opposing defense.
WR Gus Charles: Charles, a junior from Houston who played at Sul Ross State last season, has emerged as one of McKinney’s favorite passing targets. Charles leads HPU with 54 receptions this season, and needs just 61 yards against UMHB to finish the season with 1,000 receiving yards. He is quick and agile, making him tough to tackle, especially in the opening field. His longest reception this season went for 70 yards.
LB Jessie Paris: Paris has been key for HPU through the first nine games of the year, ranking second on the team in tackles (62.0), and has the most tackles for loss (6.0 TFL). Paris should play a major role in HPU’s strategy to slow UMHB’s defense down and comes off a performance at Sul Ross State in which he tallied five solo tackles.
While both UMHB and Howard Payne are set to remain members of the American Southwest Conference into 2024, three current football-playing schools will take part in their final ASC football game on Saturday. The three are: Austin College (moving to SCAC), Sul Ross State (moving to NCAA D-II), and McMurry (moving to SCAC). The ASC is set to have five football-playing schools in 2024.
Week 10 ASC Schedule
Austin College at Texas Lutheran, 1:00 p.m., Seguin, Texa
Hardin-Simmons at ETBU, 1:00 p.m., Marshall, Texas
Sul Ross State at McMurry, 1:00 p.m., Alpine, Texas
UMHB at Howard Payne, 1:00 p.m., Brownwood, Texas