By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - They didn't hesitate when the question was thrown out.
What play do you work on when it's fourth- and-15 from your own 15-yard line?
"It's called punt," Mary Hardin-Baylor wide receiver Damian Davis said.
"No doubt," added Crusader quarterback LiDarral Bailey after he and his teammates beat longtime rival McMurry University 49-20 in a NCAA Division III second-round playoff.
The War Hawks, who were going into a stiff wind at the time, didn't punt, and it ultimately cost them at Tiger Field. Already known for its unorthodox play and schemes under coach Hal Mumme, McMurry tried a fake punt down 28-20 with 10 minutes left in the game.
The offense cut it to one score late in the third quarter while the McMurry defense did its part with UMHB (12-0) going into the wind - the Crusaders opened the second half with four punts and a fumble.
But after a rush for no gain, a penalty and two incompletions, the War Hawks (9-3) faced that fourth-and-15 from their own 15. Instead of sending one of his two quarterbacks on the field (both do most of the punting), Mumme sent running back Austin Brooks out to take the snap, with the sophomore having already punted three times.
Brooks ran left on an option, but fumbled as he was tackled.
"It was a trick play we had worked on - we just didn't execute it," Mumme said. "The wind was blowing so hard that if we would have punted into that wind, they would have got it on the 20-yard line anyway. We figured it was a good time to go for it."
The loose ball rolled into the end zone, where UMHB's Rocky Vaclavick fell on it for a momentum-changing touchdown.
"The Lord gave me an opportunity to jump on the ball and I took it," said Vaclavick, who scored one of two UMHB defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The score put UMHB up 35-20 and essentially put McMurry away. Going into the wind in the fourth quarter, the pass-heavy War Hawks couldn't move the ball.
McMurry didn't gain a first down on its next drive and an incompletion on fourth down gave UMHB a short field with fullback Elijah Hudson going in three plays later.
The Crusaders then picked off Mullin three times to end McMurry's final three drives. Ty Dooley brought the second one back 40 yards for the score and 29-point lead in the final minutes.
Mullin, who missed last week with a knee injury, completed 34 of 60 passes for 269 yards and three scores. Much of that yardage however, came on short throws. McMurry's three touchdowns came with the wind at the its back (first and third quarters).
"It seemed like if I had to throw it past 20 yards, the ball just took off on me. I didn't know where it was going," Mullin said. "It was basically just throwing it up and just praying that something crazy didn't happen."
The teams traded scores in the first half, with UMHB getting a pair of Darius Wilson touchdown runs and Bailey finding Davis for a 12-yard score and taking another 78 yards on his own.
Bailey tallied 232 yards of offense, while Davis caught nine balls for 120 yards.
The win sets up another rematch - the Crusaders host Wesley College (Del.) at noon Saturday in the quarterfinals. UMHB lost at Wesley 19-9 in the same round last year.
"It was a sweet win," UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg said, "and to get Wesley, this is what we want to do. This where we need to be."