BELTON — There have been runaways, routs and blowouts before, but this was . . . well, something only Howard Payne coach Roger Geise seemed capable of summing up.
“When we pulled up to the stadium, all those tailgaters were smiling,” he said, “because we were the sacrificial meat to go on the barbecue grill.”
Dinner was served Saturday afternoon at Crusader Stadium, where Mary Hardin-Baylor sliced, diced and filleted Howard Payne during an 80-0 torching that goes in the books as the largest margin of victory in the history of Crusader football.
The Yellow Jackets didn’t trail for all of 40 seconds, at which point Derek Williamson returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown.
“We were in zone, and it came right to me. I saw there was no one in front of me and took one look back, then I just kept running,” Williamson said. “It set the tone for our defense and got the momentum going our way.”
The No. 2-ranked Crusaders (8-0, 4-0 American Southwest Conference) were only heating up the pit at that point.
Zach Anderson threw a 40-yard scoring pass to Eric Nelson on UMHB’s first offensive play less than 2 minutes later, and Elijah Hudson plunged in from 4 yards out for a 21-0 lead — after only 4 minutes and five offensive plays for the Crusaders.
“The thing that we’re doing so much better on offense that we hadn’t been doing is executing our option game,” UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg said. “We’re executing that now and it puts so much pressure on a defense.”
The pressure was too much for the Yellow Jackets (3-5, 1-4), who gave up a 77-yard TD pass from Anderson to Marcus Wimby and a 21-yard field goal by Drew Owen to trail 31-0 after the first quarter.
“We came out as an offense and really executed,” Wimby said. “And one thing we did today that we haven’t done all year was protect the ball. We had no turnovers.”
Anderson’s 31-yard scoring scamper, Baylor Mullins’ 37-yard interception return for a touchdown and Michael Carpenter TD runs of 32 and 10 yards made it 59-0 by halftime.
The only question remaining was how big the final deficit would be.
“We need better players. It’s simple. I’m pretty blunt, and we need better players,” a good-natured Geise said. “Nobody in this conference has the quality of players they do.
“There are kids that I know for a fact were offered Division II scholarships and they’re playing for Mary Hardin-Baylor. Until the rest of us can start getting players like that, they’re going to be on top for a long time — unless Pete dies.”
Brian Gallagher sandwiched touchdown passes to Wykehe Walker and Jake Bumgardner around a Glen Gilliam scoring run in the fourth quarter for the final result.
By the time the final horn mercifully sounded, UMHB had played all 80 guys in uniform, totaled 531 yards and held Howard Payne — which lost its top two quarterbacks to injuries in the first half — to only 144.
“I told (Geise) I was sorry that it got out of hand, and I was,” Fredenburg said. “I like him a lot, and I think he’s trying to do things the right way.”
UMHB did almost everything right in this one, forcing five turnovers — including interceptions by Brodrick Crain and Dana Taylor — and committing only four penalties.
It all added up to a record-setting rout heading into next Saturday’s regular-season home finale against East Texas Baptist, which was beaten by the same Howard Payne team two weeks ago.
Fredenburg, however, isn’t worried that his players will lack motivation against ETBU.
“Our main goal is not to beat East Texas Baptist. That is not the ultimate goal for our football team. Our goal is bigger than that,” he said. “But we have to use every week to make our team better, and it doesn’t matter who we play.”