By Garrett Smith
The true test of the Cru football team comes Oct. 2 in Abilene, when UMHB must face bitter rival Hardin-Simmons in a grudge match that ended in injury last year. That’s when UMHB eliminated HSU from playoff contention 38-35. Not only was an HSU player injured, but the enthusiasm and esteem of this rising HSU team was hurt as well.
Going into the 2008 season, the fierce rivalry between these two schools seemed to be dying down, as UMHB had won three games in a row against HSU, the last of which was a 47-14 blowout on the road.
But when Cowboys kicker Matt Fields missed two extra points in a 20-18 loss to the Cru, fans took more than bragging rights from the stadium. They took ragging rights.
During the week prior to the playoff rematch in Belton, UMHB fans (known as the ASC’s most creative hecklers), took to Facebook, sending Fields messages of “encouragement” to console him for his lack of kicking skill.
During the pre-game “prayer” session, the Couch Cru was respectfully silent as Fields knelt in the end zone, but they were anything but quiet when Fields stood up and volunteered a not-so-holy hand gesture to the fans. Just before the second half, Fields threw up the same traffic gesture with both hands as fans handled the situation well.
He never missed a kick that day, but his team would miss the bus to the next round as UMHB kicked a last-minute field goal for the win. Cowboy fans left Belton furious. Cowboy players left Belton motivated to win against UMHB at the next given opportunity.
As if the biggest rivalry in Division III football needed more fuel for the fi re, the record for most consecutive conference wins is on its way to being broken. HSU currently holds this record with 34 straight conference victories.
If UMHB wins, the record will be able to be broken, and Crusader football will be the most victorious program in Texas this decade. If HSU wins, their record will be safe, and the Cowboys will be on top.
In past UMHB-HSU match ups, fans have been known to raise quite a stir. In 2005, the Couch Cru brought barrels to beat in Abilene, and HSU fans retaliated by throwing beer at the visitor section.
In 2006, HSU fans tore a row out of Tiger Stadium and left it lying in the stands, bent out of shape. In 2007, UMHB students spent the night on HSU’s campus, carving a “C” on the midfield HSU logo, and infiltrating the dorms to sleep in.
Last year, HSU students called the UMHB operator with insulting comments, while UMHB students ridiculed Fields on Facebook. It will be interesting to see what this year has in store for these two fan bases.
But dedicated Cru fans know how to maintain class and handle adversity maturely. They will let the scoreboard do the talking. And after two surprise losses by HSU and a drop from 5th to 15th in the nation, it is likely the scoreboard will be much heavier on UMHB’s side at the end of the day. The mission trip to
Abilene on Oct. 3 will be another good one to remember.