By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - The starters played a little bit longer Saturday than in last week's 51-point blowout win over Howard Payne.
The result was the same.
The Mary Hardin-Baylor starting offense scored on five of its six possessions before watching from the sidelines, while the defense went the entire half in dismantling Sul Ross State 77-13 at Tiger Field.
"I'm surprised we weren't out in the first two or three minutes," linebacker Javicz Jones said. "But it's good - the coaches are trying to get us to play and get everybody else in there to get some experience. When it comes down to it, it's how your second team does and third team does.
"It's not how your first team does sometimes."
With the win, UMHB clinches at least a share of the American Southwest Conference title - the program's ninth in the last 10 years (shared or outright). More importantly, the Crusaders claimed the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs.
"It's something that we really need - home-field advantage is something that we need to take care of and run with it," Jones said. "Not many teams get that the opportunity to do that so we're blessed to get that opportunity."
Against Howard Payne last week, UMHB pulled its starters with 11:30 left in the first half. The second offense started Saturday with 3:38 left in the first half.
"We really wanted to extend them some," UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg said. "It's unfortunate, but that's what we needed to do."
Darius Wilson finished off the top offense's day with a second 1-yard touchdown - his third score in as many possessions. He finished with 138 yards - backup quarterback Jake Sims (105 yards) and running back Caleb Moore (110 and two scores) also reached the century mark.
"We're still in rhythm and still in sync - as long we leave on rhythm, we'll pick up where we left off," said Wilson, who became the sixth player in UMHB history to reach 1,000 yards.
The Crusaders outgained SRSU 569-274. Wilson entered Saturday needing 19 yards and took care of that by his first score - a 61-yard burst with 1:17 left in the first quarter.
SRSU didn't gain a first down until its third drive, though it was off a Crusader penalty. The Lobos earned their first of seven first-half downs with 3:40 left in the first quarter.
SRSU didn't reach 100 yards of offense until midway through the second quarter - the Lobos had negative total yardage until their fourth possession.
The Crusaders scored on their third offensive play - quarterback LiDarral Bailey found a wide-open Damian Davis on a 37-yard catch and run. SRSU followed with a short punt, and Bailey capped the ensuing 34-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge.
"We were able to run the ball and were able to throw it when we wanted to," Fredenburg said.
SRSU did avoid the shutout, getting a Walden 26-yard touchdown pass to Lee Carothers in the second quarter. That cut the Crusader lead to 35-6, but UMHB answered seconds later when Tariekus Ellis returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards.