The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team came to life in the second half and held off a tough Wheaton College squad as the Cru posted a 38-16 victory over the Thunder in an NCAA Division III Quarterfinal game Saturday in Belton. UMHB improves to 13-0 with the victory and advances to the National Semifinals for the sixth time in program history. The loss ends Wheaton’s season at 11-2 overall.
The two teams were scoreless through a defensive first quarter before Wheaton opened the scoring on Stefan Knoerr’s 42-yard field goal on the opening play of the second quarter. UMHB’s Baylor Mullins intercepted a Thunder pass midway through the second quarter to set up a short Cru drive. Blake Jackson’s four-yard scoring run gave UMHB a 7-3 lead with 7:56 remaining in the half. Another Cru interception set up John Mowery’s 20-yard field with 28 seconds left in the second quarter to give UMHB a 10-3 lead at the half. The Cru special teams provided the next score as Reggie Wilson broke through to block a Wheaton punt and Mullins recovered in the end zone to put the Cru up 17-3. The Thunder would answer with an eight-play, 75-yard drive capped by Johnny Peltz’s 15-yard touchdown strike to Trey Hanley to cut it to 17-9 after Wilson blocked the extra point. Raylon Hickey intercepted a Peltz pass and returned it 32 yards for a score on the next Wheaton possession to put the Cru up 24-9. Peltz again found Hanley, this time from 23 yards out to pull the Thunder to within 24-16. The Cru offense would finally strike again as Jackson found Bryce Wilkerson behind the Wheaton defense for an 80-yard TD toss to give UMHB a 31-16 lead with 1:37 left in the third quarter. Markeith Miller closed out the scoring with a 37-yard touchdown run with 2:07 remaining in the game.
The Cru finished with 334 yards of total offense on 61 plays with 179 of those coming on the ground against one of the nation’s top rushing defense’s. Wheaton posted 306 yards of offense on 74 plays, but was held to just 22 yards rushing and committed three turnovers.
Miller ran for 142 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries for UMHB. Jackson was 11-22 through the air for 155 yards and a score and he added a rushing touchdown. Wilkerson had one catch for that 80 yards score and DeNerian Thomas caught seven passes for 55 yards. Wilson finished with a game-high 15 tackles to go with his blocked punt and blocked extra point.
Peltz was 28-48 through the air for 284 yards and two touchdowns as he replaced injured Wheaton starter Andrew Bowers. Hanley caught eight passes for 103 yards and two scores. Peltz was also the Thunder’s leading rusher with 14 yards on eight carries. Caleb Ashby and Luke Sahly lead Wheaton’s defense with 14 tackles apiece.
UMHB will face Mount Union (12-1) in the Semifinals next Saturday, December 10th. The Purple Raiders advanced with a 70-45 Quarterfinal victory over Alfred on Saturday. The Cru will be facing Mount Union in the Semifinals for the third time (2004, 2012). The site and kickoff time for Saturday’s Semifinal game will be announced on Sunday.