BELTON — It was business as usual for Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday afternoon.
And Rowan (N.J.) was unaccustomed to getting the business.
Second-ranked UMHB gouged No. 24 Rowan for 337 yards rushing and 525 total, and the Crusaders slammed the door on the Profs’ previously stout running attack en route to a 59-8 blowout in an NCAA Division III second-round playoff game at Crusader Stadium.
UMHB (12-0) controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, got two touchdowns from its special teams and rolled in a national quarterfinal matchup with St. John Fisher (N.Y.) next week at Crusader Stadium.
“We had an incredible team effort,” Crusaders coach Pete Fredenburg said. “We needed some guys to really step up and play, and they did.”
The Profs (9-3) had relied all season on its massive offensive line and the shifty running of Withler Marcelin but was rendered weaponless by the Crusaders. Marcelin, who came in averaging 127 yards per game, was limited to 41 – more than half of which came on Rowan’s opening drive that produced its only touchdown.
“We can go down on the first drive and move the ball meticulously and score,”
Marcelin said. “But you have to do that for four quarters, and that’s what we didn’t do. We missed blocks and missed holes.”
Added Profs coach Jay Accorsi: “We scored early and had some energy and I thought we were doing pretty good, then it all kind of crumbled. They dominated a little bit with their offensive and defensive lines and took control of the game.”
It took the Crusaders all of the Profs’ opening possession to get a handle on things. Once they did, it was tough sledding for Rowan the rest of the way.
“Once we figured out how they were running, they were a lot easier to tackle,” said UMHB senior free safety Cody Jones, who had a team-high 10 tackles, an interception and a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown. “It was tough on their first drive, then we figured it out.”
As for his punt return abilities, Jones wasn’t sure what to think.
“I practice it a little bit. I’m not really comfortable doing it,” he said. “But if I get a chance to catch one, I’m going to catch it. I went to the store last night and bought me some (offensive skills).”
Jones’ interception came in the end zone in the final minute of the first half with Rowan trying to cut the gap to 28-13. He returned it to the UMHB 49, and two plays later Zach Anderson’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Keith Reineke put the Crusaders up 35-6 at halftime.
“We wanted to score again, but it didn’t look like we were going to be able to when they got the ball down near our end zone until Cody makes a good break,” said Anderson, who threw for 168 yards and three TDs and ran for 116 yards.“With the ball inside the 50, we went out there and knew we were going to score.”
It was a back-breaker for the Profs.
“We made some mistakes in the first half,” Rowan safety Kurt Kingett said. “And it seemed like every mistake we made went for six points for them.”
UMHB also got 136 bruising yards and a TD from senior Elijah Hudson, scoring catches by Wykeyhe Walker and Michael Carpenter, rushing touchdowns from Carpenter and backup quarterback Brian Gallagher, a 23-yard field goal by Chad Peevey, and a fumble recovery in the end zone by Glen Gilliam on a muffed punt.
After missing the extra-point try on their lone TD, the Profs only points came on a blocked punt for a safety.
Things started to get heated near the end, when Gallagher attempted a pass deep in Rowan territory. Accorsi took offense, even calling a timeout so he could walk out on the field and scream at Fredenburg.
“I’m usually not that fiery of a guy. I don’t mind losing but I don’t like getting embarrassed,” Accorsi explained. “I felt like throwing the ball there late in the game — what do you have to gain from that in the grand scheme of things? To me, there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. That’s how I was brought up, and that’s how I try to teach our young men to be. I think there’s a way you do things in life.
“I usually don’t do that. You can ask anybody. I’m a calm, collected guy. But that bothered me.”
Fredenburg offered his explanation,
“We’ve had games get out of hand before. The thing is that we have our second-team quarterback in and he has to run our offense. We weren’t trying to run the score up. We’re just trying to get some guys some experience playing. I can’t apologize for having our guys try to get better.”
It was all water under the bridge, though, with no effect on the outcome. This one was over by halftime.
“We feel a lot better after this game. We had a completely different attitude for this one,” Jones said. “We knew we had to come out and play in order to beat them, and we did that.”