Crusaders

UMHB linebacker Jalen Martin (24) celebrates with teammates after his interception during Saturday’s 91-7 season-opening victory over Albright in Reading, Pa.

BELTON — While watching film of his team’s 91-7 romp over Albright, Mary Hardin-Baylor head coach Pete Fredenburg noticed the same thing everyone else saw in eastern Pennsylvania on Saturday.

Speed kills.

Second-ranked UMHB (1-0) turned a pair of short passes into touchdowns of 71 and 61 yards, produced a 54-yard TD run and returned a punt 65 yards for a score as the Crusaders set a program single-game record for points.

“What really excites me and excites everybody is the amount of speed that we have. Obviously, it was very evident against a team that didn’t have a great amount of speed,” Fredenburg said Monday. “We’re very blessed with team speed. Our wide receivers and kick returners and punt returners are tremendous weapons.

“We were able to see what we’re capable of, and our speed is going to be a concern for everybody we play.”

Having said that, Fredenburg started in on a laundry list of things his team needs to improve as it heads into this week’s American Southwest Conference opener against Sul Ross State (0-1) in Alpine. After all, Albright (0-2) was overmatched at every position and provided little resistance for the Crusaders.

“We know we’re explosive. But when we face a really good team, we’re going to be exposed if we don’t shore up some things,” said Fredenburg, who watched the opener from home while serving a school-mandated three-game suspension because of NCAA violations. “A lot of those things, though, don’t have anything to do with athletic skill. It’s teaching and coaching, so we’ll have an opportunity to get a lot better.

“I don’t think we played very well along the offensive line. Mechanically, I don’t think our guys did things really well on the offensive and defensive lines. We were just kind of there and weren’t aware of some things. I think we’ll be a lot better on both sides going forward.”

UMHB racked up 681 total yards — 293 rushing and 388 passing — and limited Albright to just 140, despite some mistakes that stood out on film, according to Fredenburg.

“We had some real breakdowns on both sides of the ball. We were able to overcome them, but the reality is that we have to get those things fixed,” he said. “We’re not happy to just beat Albright. We have bigger plans. We have a lot work to do to get to where we want to go.”

One thing that won’t change this Saturday is the starting quarterback. After winning the position battle during fall camp, junior transfer Jace Hammack was 9-of-14 for 292 yards and two touchdowns — both of which were passes parallel to the line of scrimmage that receivers Aaron Sims and K.J. Miller turned into long scores.

“Jace did some really good things for us, and a lot of them were on his own,” Fredenburg said. “The first touchdown to Aaron Sims, Jace saw the way (Albright) deployed their defense and threw it out there to Aaron. We give him the leeway to do that and he executed it well. He did that several times.”

One change this week will come on special teams. After the Crusaders missed two extra-point attempts and had another one blocked, Nicholas Medina is now listed as the starting kicker ahead of fellow freshman Austin Garza.

“We need some work on our special teams,” Fredenburg said.

Facing the Lobos

Sul Ross State had last week off after a season-opening 42-20 loss to NAIA member Arizona Christian. The Lobos have never beaten the Crusaders in 20 tries, and kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. Saturday in the teams’ 21st meeting.

“Arizona Christian is pretty good, so I think (Sul Ross State) will be better this week than they were two weeks ago,” Fredenburg said. “And when you play Sul Ross at night, they always seem to be a different team than when you play them during the day. It will be a challenge for us.

“It doesn’t matter who play. We have to get better. Every year we go through the process of trying to get our team better every week.”

Conference honors

UMHB set ASC single-game records for points and touchdowns in last week’s blowout, and two players who played major roles in the record-breaking performance were rewarded for their efforts.

Senior running back Markeith Miller shared the conference’s offensive player of the week honor with Hardin-Simmons running back Jaquan Hemphill, while K.J. Miller — a junior transfer from East Texas Baptist — was named special teams player of the week.

Markeith Miller ran for 97 yards and a school single-game record six touchdowns.

“It’s a great way for Markeith to start his senior year,” Fredenburg said. “He’s really a great player and is destined to have a great year, if he stays healthy.”

Along with his 61-yard touchdown catch, K.J. Miller had the 65-yard punt return for a score and averaged 62.5 yards on two returns.

“We had to defend K.J. last year when he was at East Texas Baptist. He’s an incredibly gifted athlete,” Fredenburg said. “He and Aaron Sims and Kadarius Daniels are real weapons for us.”

Looking ahead

Saturday’s ASC opener will be the second of three straight road games to open the season for UMHB, which travels to Seguin to face Texas Lutheran on Sept. 22 before playing its home opener Sept. 29 against Southwestern — Fredenburg’s first game back on the sideline.

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