BELTON - As bad as the mistakes were, Mary Hardin-Baylor stood 60 yards away from moving one step closer to its ultimate goal.
That national championship, however, will have to come another year.
And for that to happen, the Crusaders will likely have to find a way to get past Wesley College (Del.). It didn't happen in Saturday's 27-24 loss at Tiger Field in the NCAA Division III quarterfinals, just like it didn't happen last season in Delaware.
"We're going to win a national championship one of these days and that's got to be the goal of this program," said UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg, whose team is now 2-4 in playoff meetings with Wesley. "It's unfortunate, but we start all over again."
That almost wasn't the case. UMHB stopped Wesley quarterback Shane McSweeny short on a fourth-and-1 try in the final minutes. On third down, McSweeny slid short of the first down, getting seven yards instead of eight.
The Crusaders had 2:41 to go 60 yards, but then came the last of a number of mistakes. UMHB's offense never got set after coming on the field, and the Crusaders burned their last timeout before running a play.
"There was a little confusion there,"
Fredenburg said. "We sure didn't want to use the timeout, but I also didn't want to run a bad play."
UMHB picked up a first down but quickly faced a fourth-and-3. LiDarral Bailey dropped back but was hit in the arm by linebacker Sosthene Kapepula as he tried to get it to Tucker Glaske.
"I just couldn't get it off," said Bailey, who bounced back from three interceptions to throw for 199 yards and a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to Damian Davis. "I didn't execute like I should have."
Wesley jumped out early with the deep ball, scoring on passes of 56 and 78 yards and having a 42-yarder lead to a third.
But unlike last season, when UMHB could key on Wesley's Ellis Krout, McSweeny looked up and down the roster. He threw touchdowns to four different receivers.
He found Steven Koudossou for a 78-yard bomb in the second quarter. Cornerback Brodrick Crain tried to pull Koudossou down before he broke free and scored to put Wesley up 21-3 late in the first half.
On the previous possession, McSweeny and Matt Barile hooked up on a 42-yard completion.
"Those guys - Barile and Koudossou - they're fast and they're great to have," McSweeny said. "They can beat you deep and that's just a weapon to have in your back pocket."
The Crusaders couldn't sit back against the pass mostly due to McSweeny's ability to run. His 114 yards rushing was more than half of UMHB's total (194).
"We certainly tried to work against getting single coverage," Fredenburg said. "Every once in a while when you have to defend the run and you borrow some safeties, you expose that."
The 56-yard touchdown went to Barile, who beat Javolis Heard down the middle of the field to put Wesley up 27-10 (UMHB blocked the extra point).
The block, which came at the hands of Korey Steward, turned the momentum and set up UMHB's near comeback.
Wesley missed a field goal to start the second half, but UMHB also forced four punts. The offense responded with three scores in eight minutes - Bailey's 45-yarder to Davis made it 27-24 with just less than six minutes to play.
"A good quarterback is going to have his plays, but our defense - we put it together and we held together as long as we could," linebacker Javicz Jones said.