Conditions weren’t ideal Saturday when No. 2 UMHB squared off against Texas Lutheran University, but the Crusaders were able to overcome the weather as well as a hungry Bulldogs team and extend their regular season winning streak to 61 games in front of a soggy crowd at Crusader Stadium.
Heavy rain early in the contest made things difficult for both offenses as the only score of the first quarter came in the form of an 11-yard touchdown run from senior running back Malcolm Miller to put the Cru up 7-0.
The touchdown was set up by a 37-yard completion from senior quarterback Zach Anderson to senior wide receiver Marcus Wimby. Wimby said the team offense wasn’t discouraged by its early struggles.
“On the sideline, I just reminded the guys to stay patient and everything would open up for us,” he said.
Miller found the endzone again on a 1-yard score to make it 14-0.
After the teams traded punts, UMHB linebacker Matt Cody picked off TLU quarterback Trenton White and returned it 28 yards to the TLU one yardline. Two plays later, junior quarterback Blake Jackson added a 1-yard touchdown of his own to give the Cru a 20-0 advantage after a blocked extra point attempt.
TLU got on the board when senior quarterback Trenton White scrambled around the left side and broke free for a 24-yard score to make it 20-7 at the half.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, sophomore Jordan Millar fielded the ball at the 31 yardline and took it 69 yards for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion pushed the lead to 28-7.
The Bulldogs responded when White found freshman Jekovan Holmes for a 48-yard touchdown. TLU added a 31-yard field goal from kicker Chadd Brown to pull within 28-17.
The UMHB defense wasn’t getting much help from its offense in the second half, but senior linebacker Trey Thedford said his squad was still confident in their ability to make a play, even after giving up consecutive scores.
“I don’t think we were scared. It’s not like we shut down. I think if anything, it allowed us to rise up a little bit,” Thedford said.
The Crusader offense relieved some of the pressure when Anderson found Wimby again for a 56-yard touchdown to give UMHB some breathing room at 35-17.
TLU scored its final points with a 28-yard field goal from Brown to make it 35-20. It didn’t take long for the Cru to answer, however, as sophomore Bryce Wilkerson took the ensuing kickoff 89-yards for a touchdown. A blocked extra point attempt left the score at 41-20 with 10:52 left to play.
The Cru would tack on one more score when Miller rumbled 28 yards, carrying two defenders with him into the endzone to extend the lead to 48-20.
Even though the Crusaders ended up with a comfortable margin of victory, the game was closer than the final score indicated. TLU out-gained the Cru in total offense with 333 yards to UMHB’s 230. The passing game in particular was largely ineffective, as Anderson was just 3-of-9 for 94 yards, 93 of which coming on the two passes to Wimby.
Head coach Pete Fredenberg said the weather contributed to the offense’s inconsistency.
“I think it was a factor because of concerns with throwing and catching. It made us a little more conservative than we’d like to be on offense,” he said.
White completed 19 of 35 passes for 228 yards and added 66 yards rushing for the Bulldogs.
Even though it wasn’t the prettiest of games, Fredenberg didn’t undersell the value of coming out with a victory against a quality opponent.
“It was a big win. It was against a team that was very driven and they want to be where we are. They had an open date and had some confidence and we had to play hard,” he said.
With the win, the Crusaders remain tied atop the American Southwest Conference Standings along with No.14 Hardin-Simmons and East Texas Baptist.
The Crusaders will travel to Abilene to face Hardin-Simmons on Saturday in a battle of unbeatens.