BELTON — As many ways as there are to score points in a football game, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor seems to utilize all of them.
In their 45-23 victory Saturday over St. John Fisher the Crusaders found six different ways to put points on the board — safety, field goal, interception return, run, pass and point-after interception return for two points.
The Crusaders have made the unusual methods of scoring closer to the norm, especially through their current Division III playoff run.
Those scores are often accomplished or set up by a special teams unit that is coming to the forefront.
Every team assembled at every level proclaims that they focus on all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams. Sometimes special teams are just thrown in as an afterthought. Apparently, the Crusaders mean it.
“It goes back to Coach (Pete) Fredenburg and how he emphasizes all three phases of the game,” said David Branscom, who is one of a bevy of coaches assigned to oversee special teams. “Not only are we emphasizing it, but we want to use special teams as a weapon. We emphasize it in practice and it has worked to our advantage.
While the UMHB offense sputtered off and on by its standards against Fisher, it was the special teams play that got the Crusaders on the board to establish a lead and carry it on through to a victory.
Chad Peevey punted six times for a 49-yard average aided in large part by his first one — a 75-yard bomb that was downed at the Fisher 2. Three plays later, Andy McAteer got to Fisher quarterback Tyler Fenti to force an intentional grounding call in the end zone and a safety.
Moments later Peevey utilized the stiff winds for a 47-yard field goal and a 5-0 lead.
Up 12-0 in the second quarter, the Cardinals completed a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown march to cut the lead in half. They wouldn’t get any closer as Tim Bower, UMHB’s 6-5 defensive end from Belton, blocked the extra point. Bower used his tall frame to come through the middle and bat away an extra-point attempt just a week before in the 59-8 rout of Rowan.
“If it wasn’t for (the tackles) in front of me I couldn’t do my job,” Bower said. “One of them punches their guy and I slipped in. It happens quite a lot.”
It’s known as the “slip technique” developed way back in the 1980’s by Baylor player Max McGeary when Fredenburg was part of Grant Teaff’s staff. McGeary blocked 16 kicks one season.
Rowan and Fisher combined to score four touchdowns against UMHB the last two weeks. Only one of the subsequent conversion attempts was successful.
In the third quarter Saturday, Fisher scored again in an attempt to get back in the game down 29-12. On the two-point conversion, Cody Jones stepped in front of a Fenti pass and took it 100 yards into the opposite end zone to steal the Cardinals two points for the Crusaders and a little piece of momentum from Fisher.
“That was a momentum swing for us and huge play for me,” Jones said. “It just keeps the pressure on.”
Tack on a fumble recovery by UMHB’s Malcolm Miller on a Cardinal punt return that led to a Crusader touchdown and another Peevey field goal from 36 yards it was a very fruitful day for the special teams.
“We’re out to prove how good we are and who we are as a team,” Branscom said of the special teams unit. “We put our best athletes on the field.”