BELTON — As stellar as Mary Hardin-Baylor’s effort was last week in the inaugural game of its sparkling new stadium, the Crusaders’ encore performance Saturday was equally unspectacular.
The fact that second-ranked UMHB rang up a 40-18 victory over Sul Ross State owed as much to the Lobos’ undisciplined style as it did to the Crusaders’ execution.
In an American Southwest Conference opener that featured nine turnovers and 24 penalties totaling 245 yards, UMHB (4-0) simply made fewer mistakes than Sul Ross State (0-4) at rain-soaked Crusader Stadium.
“I don’t think any of our players feel very good right now about their performance or what we did on the field,” Crusaders coach Pete Fredenburg said. “You have to enjoy the idea that you won a ballgame, but you also have to be realistic and see the things that we did wrong.”
One week after dismantling then-fifth-ranked Wesley (Del.), UMHB came unhinged against an athletic but helter-skelter Sul Ross squad.
Sophomore starting quarterback Zach Anderson struggled in the first half, was benched to start the second half, re-entered in the fourth quarter and produced an 81-yard touchdown run but was pulled again after drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting the Lobos at the line of scrimmage.
Senior Brian Gallagher fared no better under center, completing only seven of 19 passes for 41 yards and rushing for minus-11 yards.
“I’m a little disappointed in aspects of both of them,” Fredenburg said. “I know they did some things that created some issues for us. We really have to address it.”
The lone offensive bright spot for the Crusaders was sophomore Michael Carpenter, who ran for 140 yards and a touchdown to go with a 45-yard TD reception as a fill-in for injured rushing leader Elijah Hudson.
“I feel like I have some speed,” Carpenter said. “I think I can get in space and make people miss.”
Freshman kicker Drew Owen made four field goals but missed three, and a UMHB defense came in allowing only 16 rushing yards per game gave up 131 on the ground and 222 through the air.
The saving grace was the Lobos’ inability to take care of the ball and the Crusaders ability to go after it.
Freshman Sul Ross State quarterback Derrick Bernard threw four interceptions and the Lobos lost two fumbles, one of which was returned 9 yards for a touchdown by Brodrick Crain on the first play of the second half.
“Our freshman quarterback played very well tonight in spots. But he’s still making way too many mistakes, and we lost our composure in the third quarter,” first-year Lobos coach John Tyree said. “But we can learn to keep our composure and cut out the turnovers.”
Indeed, cooler heads did not prevail throughout a second half that featured a seemingly unending string of personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and the ejection of Sul Ross State linebacker Brandon Thornton, who had a team-high 10 tackles at the time of his ouster in the third quarter.
“At times, there were some people who lost their heads,” said UMHB linebacker Deshon Kinsey, who had a game-high 13 tackles and forced four fumbles. “We had to pull together and get focused.”
UMHB takes a break from ASC play with a non-conference matchup against Trinity next week, and then takes a week off before hosting Louisiana College on Oct. 19.
“No matter who we’re playing, we have to push forward,” Fredenburg said. “And I don’t know that we got better tonight.
“Just as soon as you think you’re doing pretty good — like we did last week — then you look at this and see that we’re not mature enough right now. We’re not handling the pressure, not handling the focus it takes to get prepared every week. And the rain? Come on. We can’t let rain be a distraction.”
NOTES: Crain, Eric Allen, Cody Jones and Derek Williamson intercepted passes for UMHB. . . . Cameron Yoe product Cordrick Mobley had seven catches for 32 yards and a TD for the Lobos. . . . Fredenburg said Hudson could have played Saturday and will be re-evaluated heading into the Trinity game.