Crusader Stadium was electric as the reigning national champions took the field Saturday evening. Fans packed the stands and the stadium rumbled with excitement at kickoff. Cru football looked solid during their 23-7 victory against the Sul Ross State Lobos.
The Cru offense made a statement early, turning their first possession into a seemingly effortless three points. UMHB’s defensive unit kept the intensity high, forcing three straight 3-and-outs on successive Lobos possessions. Freshman safety number 43 Jefferson Fritz played a key role in one of these stops, anticipating the third down pass and stopping a Sul Ross receiver cold.
“It was fun and really exciting getting to go out there and finally play,” Fritz said of his first collegiate game. “In college, the game is much faster-paced, and the guy are faster and bigger too.”
Fritz seems to have made the transition from high school smoothly and is already contributing to the team.
The Cru defense dominated the first half of the game, allowing no points. They gave up just one first down, and collected a turnover in the red zone, which the offense then converted into three points. Senior cornerback number 2 Kris Brown looked particularly comfortable on the field.
“It felt good to be out there just flyin’ around,” Brown said. “I felt fast and healthy, and it was good to see the guys flyin’ out there too.”
Brown helped spearhead an impressive defensive performance by the Cru, who allowed Sul Ross to score on only one of their 11 possessions.
Crusader offense played a solid game, scoring a touchdown in each half after senior kicker number 13 John Mowery put UMHB up 9-0 with a flurry of field goals. Mowery was a perfect 3/3 on the night.
Senior wide receiver number 1 Bryce Wilkerson made it look easy, expertly weaving his way through defensive traffic for a 25-yard touchdown reception with 3:54 left in the second quarter, increasing the Cru lead to 16-0 after the Mowery extra point.
Freshman wide receiver number 19 Isaiah Townes dazzled onlookers with his debut score, a 9-yard touchdown grab, midway through the third quarter.
Senior quarterback number 10 TJ Josey passed Townes a dime on a corner fade route, and Townes came down with the football in the end zone despite jarring contact with a defender. These were the final Cru points of the night, further increasing their lead to 23-0.
“TJ told me in the huddle that I was getting the ball,” Townes said. “This opportunity was a long time coming, and when it was my time to do my job, I went up there and made the play.”
Hopefully, this is just a glimpse of things to come for this promising young receiver.
In the late third quarter, the Crusader defense allowed Sul Ross to get the better of them, allowing a touchdown pass after a particularly strong Lobos drive. After this lone lapse in total defensive control, UMHB allowed no further scoring, closing out the 23-7 win.
Despite the one-sided victory, Head Coach Pete Fredenburg expects noticeable development in the team next week.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling to go out there and win the ball game,” Coach Fredenburg said. “But the most improvements happen between weeks one and two.”
With the team seemingly poised to take things to the next level, UMHB football shows no signs of slowing down. For next Saturday’s matchup, the team will travel to McMinnville, Oregon, to face Linfield College.