BELTON — There is only so much physical pounding a defense can absorb, and Mary Hardin-Baylor running back Elijah Hudson has a tendency to push opponents past the breaking point.
The senior and first-team All-American Southwest Conference selection averages 110 yards per game and picked up 136 on 23 punishing carries in a second-round playoff rout of Rowan (N.J.) last Saturday, when the defeated Profs admitted that Hudson wore them down.
The second-ranked Crusaders (12-0), though, have no fear of wearing out their workhorse.
“The thing that I think happens with him — in fact I think it happens with all great backs — is when they get tired, they quit thinking and just start playing instinctively,” said UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg, whose squad hosts St. John Fisher (10-2) out of New York in a national quarterfinal at noon Saturday. “That’s what Elijah does.
“I think he’s really good. And the more it matters, the better he is.”
Sophomore quarterback Zach Anderson, who entered fall camp in a battle for the third-string job, has continued to improve since taking over as the starter for the season’s third game.
Against Rowan, he threw for 168 yards and three touchdowns to go with 116 rushing yards and didn’t turn the ball over.
Fredenburg just wishes there was a way to script his quarterback’s post-game comments.
“Zach is getting better as a player,” Fredenburg said Monday.
“He’s getting a lot better until he says something like, ‘We weren’t scared. We knew we could score anytime.’
“Man, he’s a free spirit.”
UMHB is hopeful of getting back receiver Marcus Wimby — who missed the first two rounds with a shoulder sprain — and defensive end Korey Steward, who missed the second round with an injury that Fredenburg would not divulge.
Without Steward, the Crusaders shifted ASC Defensive Player of the Year Silvio Diaz outside to the end spot, something they had rather not do.
“We’re better with Silvio in the middle, and Silvio is better in the middle. He’s a little more active in the middle,” Fredenburg said. “So we really hope Korey is back, and we think he might be after he worked out (Sunday).”
Of the eight teams remaining in the NCAA Division III playoffs, St. John Fisher is the only one that wasn’t ranked in the final coaches poll of the regular season.
The other quarterfinal matchups feature No. 14 Wesley (Del.) at No. 1 Mount Union (Ohio); No. 6 Bethel (Minn.) at No. 4 North Central (Ill.); and No. 3 Linfield (Ore.) at No. 5 Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The winner of Saturday’s game at Crusader Stadium will face the winner between Linfield and UW-Whitewater.
Season ticket holders can purchase quarterfinal tickets from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 7:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday. The general public can buy tickets from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to noon Friday.
Tickets are sold at the Gate One ticket windows of Crusader Stadium. Online ticket sales begin at noon Wednesday.
New basketball times
Because of the playoff game, the starting times for UMHB’s home basketball games Saturday have been pushed back. The women’s game will tip at 4:30 p.m. and the men at 6:30.