By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
BROWNWOOD - Should the Crusaders go ahead and make the playoffs for the eighth straight season, they didn't do their future first-round opponent any favors Saturday.
On one hand, Mary Hardin-Baylor thoroughly dominated Howard Payne for a 57-6 victory at Gordon Wood Stadium.
The Crusaders scored on their first two offensive plays. In between was UMHB's ninth non-offensive touchdown of the year. The three-score lead took just five minutes.
On the other hand, the Crusaders not only pulled most of their starters early in the second quarter, but showed a few new wrinkles to the offense for opponents to worry about. That included a reverse and jet sweep to running back Darius Wilson, who lined up out wide on the play.
"It's fun - just open up the playbook and go play," said UMHB quarterback LiDarral Bailey, whose first two throws - and the offense's first two plays - were both touchdown passes to Damian Davis. "We've had those plays for weeks, but we just haven't been running them. It's fun to go out there and execute those plays."
In the postseason, teams will trade film from the previous three games. For UMHB, that starts with Saturday and concludes with games against Sul Ross State and Texas Lutheran.
The Crusaders (8-0, 6-0 American Southwest Conference) outscored those three 202-18 last year and is already rolling with their third-straight 50-point outing.
"The thing you want to try and do is also execute - just execute the things we felt like we need to," UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg said. "But we know what we're going to win with, and that's thing that's important."
That came in all three phases, but especially on defense. The Crusaders harassed HPU quarterback Thomas Head, never allowing the junior to start the Yellow Jackets' option offense.
HPU (1-8, 1-6) used sizable splits between the center and guards, and UMHB took full advantage as numerous defensive linemen made their way into the backfield seemingly untouched.
"Obviously our D-line had a great day today and that was one of the things we were striving for," linebacker Javicz Jones said. "We were telling our D-line, 'Y'all are going to have a great game.'"
The Yellow Jackets never decreased their splits, and 13 different Crusaders combined for 17 tackles for loss. That included four on the defensive front.
"Your eyes get huge, you start salivating at the mouth and you're just ready to go," said defensive tackle Chris Brent (2½ tackles for loss). "We love getting after him every play."
HPU had 48 yards of total offense in the first half and finished with just 20 yards on the ground.
UMHB's starting offense only saw 20 snaps together. Following a 43-yard Tariekus Ellis kickoff return to open the game, Bailey ran left in an option look, but pulled up and completed a 37-yard scoring strike to Davis 22 seconds into the game.
Howard Payne answered with a three and out but didn't get the punt off. The snap was low to Cote Schacherl, who fumbled. Jones picked it up and returned it 25 yards for the touchdown.
The next score was just as fast and also followed another big return. Geoff Myles returned a punt 43 yards to midfield and Bailey again found Davis – the 44-yard touchdown and Chad Peevey extra point made it 19-0 five minutes into the game.
The starters scored two more times and UMHB brought in reserves after Peevey hit a 25-yard field goal with 11:31 left in the first half. Ten different players carried the ball, with running back Caleb Moore leading with 72 yards and three touchdowns.
"It's fun to see those second-string guys grow as a team and get experience out there," Bailey said. "As long as we're winning, I'm all for it."