BELTON — Coming off a game in which Mary Hardin-Baylor outscored conference rival Howard Payne by 62 points (68-6), including rolling up 40 consecutive in the first half, head coach Pete Fredenburg said he expected such an outburst.
“I was not surprised we had a real good outing against Howard Payne because our guys were really focused in on what we needed to do,” Fredenburg said Monday.
Things were going so well at times for the Cru, they even scored on a planned punt.
Lined up in fourth-and-12 from the 37, backup quarterback Jake Sims was going to punt after trying a hard count, but when a Jackets defender jumped offsides, the ball was snapped unexpectedly. Rolling out, Sims found receiver Jon Ross wide open for a 37-yard touchdown with no time remaining in the third quarter to put UMHB ahead 61-0.
“There was no play,” Fredenburg laughed. “We were fixing to punt the ball and we score a touchdown. Man, bless their hearts. When it rains, it pours.”
Fifty-eight separate Cru players participated Saturday after game got out of hand early. Leading a 23-0 first quarter, senior starting quarterback LiDarral Bailey finished with three touchdowns — two to receiver Caleb Moore — on just 5-of-6 passing and opened the game with a 6-yard touchdown run.
Although limited reps for his starters was a concern, Fredenburg said it was just as important to see the younger, less experienced players get action.
“You worry about them not getting sharp or conditioning, but you also want to make sure you give other guys the opportunity to play,” he said.
UMHB (8-0, 5-0 American Southwest Conference) now finishes the season against teams the Cru have an all-time series advantage of 23-3 combined: East Texas Baptist (3-5, 2-3 ASC) and Mississippi College (2-6, 1-4). UMHB begins its playoff push at 1 p.m. Saturday on the road against ETBU at Ornelas Stadium in Marshall.
But after falling short of their annual national championship goal with back-to-back losses in the national quarterfinals, Fredenburg indicated the Cru were maintaining a focused approach and no looking ahead to the postseason.
“We’re certainly talking about the speculation of who’s going to help us (in the playoffs), so those kinds of plans are initiated,” he said. “But as far as who we’re playing, or where or what, no, we don’t talk about that.”
Cru turn to veterans to fight complacency
While rolling through another conference slate with virtually little competition, outscoring ASC opponents by an average of 33.6 points per game, Fredenberg admitted complacency is an issue with another assured postseason on the horizon.
“In every profession, I think you fight complacency, and it’s certainly true of a football team. So we address it, we talk about it and we fight it every day,” Fredenburg said.
Part of that responsibility lies with veteran leaders such as Bailey and linebacker Javicz Jones, who tied the ASC career tackles record of 403. Jones is the first UMHB player to eclipse 400 tackles, with four Saturday against Howard Payne.
When enlightened to Jones’ record opportunity, Fredenburg said nothing about Jones surprised him, not after watching him transition from receiver to safety to linebacker.
“If I remember correctly, he wasn’t too fond about moving to defense, he wanted to play receiver,” Fredenburg said. “But every move, he kind of looked at you like, ‘Are you sure?’ and then he just goes. I think he’s very instinctive.”
UMHB stays at No. 2 nationally, hopes for more
Despite some lopsided victories, the Cru remained in the No. 2 spot in both major Division III national polls, the American Football Coaches Association’s Top 25 and the D3football.com Top 25.
UMHB has now been ranked second in the nation in both polls for seven straight weeks.
But when the NCAA releases its first regional rankings Wednesday, UMHB is confident it will receive a No. 1 ranking in the South.
“I don’t know who would be ahead of us,” UMHB spokesperson Jon Wallin said. “We fully expect we’ll be No. 1, Wesley (College) will be 2 and we’ll fight it out from there.”
The Cru grabbed a single first-place vote to hold onto their runner-up spot in this week’s AFCA Top 25 Poll and D3football.com Top 25 poll. Mount Union held firm at No. 1 in both polls receiving the other 41 and 24 first-place votes, respectively.
The NCAA regional rankings are used in the selection and seeding of the NCAA Division III playoffs, which the Cru also believe will bring a No. 1 seeding.