BELTON — Accustomed to playing for the national championship on a Friday night, Mary Hardin-Baylor gets another chance to play a day earlier than normal — thanks to Mother Nature.
The matchup between No. 2 UMHB and Howard Payne, originally scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Brownwood’s Gordon Wood Stadium, will instead kick off at 5 p.m. today at the same venue. The decision to play a day earlier was made late Thursday afternoon after the schools determined that the weather forecast did not give them a realistic chance to get the game in over the weekend.
“I was on board simply because there was no alternative,” said Crusaders head coach Pete Fredenburg, whose team had a game at Louisiana College canceled in 2005 because of an impending hurricane. “We looked at the weather report from both places — even thinking about moving the game to Belton — but everything is bad on Saturday.
“We missed that game in 2005, and it ended up hurting us in the (playoff seedings) because we only had nine games.”
The last two times the Crusaders played other than on a Saturday, the NCAA Division III championship was at stake. UMHB won the 2016 Stagg Bowl on a Friday night and lost last year’s title game on a Friday.
If history is any indication, though, it would take more than a schedule change to make this matchup competitive. The Crusaders are 18-2 all-time against the Yellow Jackets and won the previous 10 meetings by an average margin of 58 points, outscoring Howard Payne 637-59 over that span.
UMHB (5-0, 4-0 American Southwest Conference) is coming off a 26-0 shutout of rival Hardin-Simmons and averages 549 yards and 62 points per game while yielding only 199 yards and seven points.
Howard Payne (1-4, 1-3), which has lost three straight since beating McMurry last month, averages only 271 yards and 20 points and gives up 522 yards and 41 points.
Because of the schedule change, the Crusaders will travel and play on the same day, meaning some of the coaches will try to block out memories of the program’s previous one-day trip to Brownwood that resulted in a stunning 24-20 victory by Howard Payne in 2005.
“We’re going the day of the game which is scary because … well, we all remember what happened the last time we went to Brownwood on the day of a game,” Fredenburg said.
As for today’s activities, UMHB had already finalized the game plan and personnel decisions earlier this week. The only other alteration caused by the switch has to do with the players’ usual Friday night routine.
“The guys are kind of upset they won’t get to go to the movies on Friday night,” Fredenburg joked.