BELTON — Mary Hardin-Baylor did not mess around with Louisiana College.
The Wildcats said it felt like the second-ranked Crusaders were exacting a vendetta.
“I think they had a point to prove. We felt like we’d played them close in the first half last time and I think they wanted to come out fast and do some things. And, they did. They took it to us,” said Louisiana College coach Dennis Dunn.
There was nothing personal about Mary Hardin-Baylor’s 59-20 win over the No. 23 Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoff Saturday at Tiger Field. It was all business for the Cru.
Mary-Hardin Baylor (11-0) plays Franklin College (Ohio) in the second round next week, most likely back at Tiger Field.
“Every week, for us, we’re trying to make a statement,” said UMHB senior linebacker Javicz Jones, who had 12 tackles and collected his school record seventh interception this season in the win.
“We treat every game like it’s our last. ... It doesn’t matter what team and what the hype is, we just make sure we hard and handle the business that we need to.”
The Cru jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first eight minutes and scored touchdowns on all but one drive in the first half to take a 42-6 lead at halftime.
Mary Hardin-Baylor quarterback LiDarral Bailey threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 124 yards and two more scores to lead the Cru offense, which totalled 674 yards. Bailey missed two plays early in the third quarter after getting slammed hard to the ground by Wildcats’ nose guard Justin Williams, but returned on the Cru’s next series.
The Wildcats (8-3), making their first Division III playoff appearance, were led by running back Ryan Montague, who rushed for 111 yards and one score and caught six passes for 60 yards and another touchdown, and quarterback Jamie Blunting, who threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Bunting was also intercepted four times, twice by Eric Allen. The two teams combined for seven turnovers in a sloppy second half.
“From beginning to finish, today, we were never a factor. If they don’t win a national championship, I’m going to be shocked,” Dunn said.
Louisiana totalled just a single yard as the Cru built their early lead and finished with 432 yards total, but the Wildcats never threatened to pull off the upset or even keep pace with Mary Hardin-Baylor early like their first meeting this season.
When the two American Southwest Conference teams met in Pineville during the regular season, Louisiana College held the Cru scoreless for the first 29 minutes, 59.59 seconds of the game, but UMHB’s Korey Steward blocked the Wildcats’ field goal attempt on the final play of the half and Jones returned the blocked kick 95 yards for a go-ahead score to ignite a 30-3 Cru win.
Bailey ensured there would be no such drama this time out. The senior quarterback ran for scores of 7 and 23 yards and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Salado-native tight end Tyler Coker to build the Cru’s early lead.
“You’ve got to set the tone for these playoffs. It’s the first game, we’ve got to do this every week, just go out from the get-go and attack those guys,” Bailey said.
UMHB punted on its final drive of the first quarter, but Bailey came back in the second with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Darius Wilson and a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jon Ross. Wilson had a 6-yard touchdown run in between. Wilson had 43 yards and two touchdowns rushing and three catches for 37 yards and another score receiving.
“Raising the level of play and the exposure, obviously, it means a lot because there’s no tomorrow; we’re guaranteed of this game,” said UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg of the playoffs. “We’ve got to rise our level of play and I think the guys really did and stepped up to do that.”