ALPINE — One week after flashing its speed in a season-opening rout, Mary Hardin-Baylor used brute force to begin American Southwest Conference play with a very similar result.
UMHB rushed for 533 yards and limited Sul Ross State to 112 yards total as the second-ranked Crusaders mashed on the Lobos in the trenches on the way to a 68-7 victory Saturday night at Jackson Field.
In perfect football conditions at the gateway to The Big Bend, the offensive line of center Steven Sellers, guards Lane Smith and DoRion Dreighton, and tackles Azaviar Carter and Colton Hall paved the way for UMHB (2-0, 1-0) in a game that was never competitive.
“We knew we had to improve our running game. If they were going to put five (defenders) in the box, we take that as a challenge,” said Sellers, a sophomore. “The coaches really hammered it in that we needed to run the ball on these guys. And once we saw we could slice them down the middle, we just kept it going.”
UMHB senior running back Markeith Miller battered the Lobos (0-2, 0-1) for 213 yards rushing – almost all of them right through the heart of the defense — in less than two quarters of action. Olan Vining ran for 123 yards and Marquis Duncan finished with 120.
“(Sul Ross State) played real soft on defense,” said Crusaders defensive coordinator Larry Harmon, who served as acting head coach for the second straight week while head coach Pete Fredenburg serves a school-mandated three-game suspension for NCAA violations. “They were a little scared of our receivers. They weren’t going to let us throw and make it ugly. So we ran the ball, and it got ugly.”
The Crusaders led 44-0 before the Lobos recorded their initial first down with 3:17 left in the first half, which ended with UMHB holding a 44-0 lead.
Miller had first-half scoring runs of 4, 4 and 16 yards. T.J. Josey’s 28-yard TD catch of a pass from DeNerian Thomas came two plays after sophomore free safety Jefferson Fritz intercepted Fabian Baeza. Duncan scored on runs of 10 and 6 yards, and Nicholas Medina kicked a 29-yard field goal to cap UMHB’s first-half point production.
Sul Ross State totaled only 25 yards – 38 rushing and minus-13 rushing – through the first two quarters. Of the Crusaders’ 424 first-half yards, 307 of them were on the ground – almost all of those straight up the middle.
Duncan scored again early in the third on a 14-yard run, before the Lobos broke the shutout with Ozias Wright’s 20-yard TD scamper with 6:42 left in the period.
In the fourth quarter, UMHB tacked on Olan Vining’s 8-yard scoring run, Thomas’ 31-yard TD pass to Demetrius Taylor on a free play after the Lobos jumped offside and Medina’s 31-yard field goal.
Defensive tackle Joey Longoria had a team-high six tackles and end Khevon Shepard — back from injury after missing the opener — had five stops for UMHB, which surrendered only 26 yards on the ground and 86 through the air.
“Last week, our fundamentals and body mechanics were really bad on defense,” Harmon said in reference to the Crusaders’ 91-7 victory over Albright. “I think we made improvements on that. But what we need is better communication between our linebackers and the front four. We missed some calls as far as what front we wanted to be in.”
The missed calls made little impact on the outcome, which was sealed by the midway point of the midway mark of the second quarter. All that was left after that was determining how big the final margin would be.
“On that first play, you kind of feel out your opponent,” said Sellers, whose team takes on Texas Lutheran in Seguin next Saturday night.
“If they don’t hit you as hard as you hit them, it’s a good feeling that, ‘OK. We’re going to do this.’”