The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team punched its ticket to the national championship game with a smothering defensive effort as the Cru knocked off defending national champion Mount Union 14-12 Saturday night in Belton. UMHB improves to 14-0 with the victory and advances to the Stagg Bowl for the first time since 2004 and just the second time in program history. The loss ends the Purple Raiders’ season at 12-2 overall.
The two teams played solid defense to slow down high-powered offense through a scoreless first quarter as a missed UMHB field goal was the only real scoring chance. Mount Union finally put points on the board when Alex Louthan connected on a 30-yard field to cap a 32-yard drive with 8:08 left to play in the second quarter. The Cru answered on the ensuing possession when Blake Jackson’s 33-yard pass tipped off the hands of T.J. Josey and into the arms of a diving Wykeyhe Walker for a touchdown with 3:47 remaining in the half. John Mowery’s extra point made it 7-3 UMHB. The Purple Raiders put together another solid drive, but had to settle for Louthan’s 32-yard field goal on the final play of the half to cut it to 7-6 Cru at the half. UMHB stretched the lead to 14-6 when Jackson’s one-yard scoring plunge closed out a 12-play, 83-yard drive with 1:53 to go in the third period. Mount Union cut it to 14-12 when Dom Davis scored on an eight-yard QB keeper with 4:24 left in the game, but heavy pressure on the two-point conversion try forced an incompletion to leave UMHB holding a 14-12 edge. The Cru would punt the ball back to Mount Union, but UMHB’s Ajay Fanene intercepted a screen pass with 1:44 remaining. It appeared that the Purple Raider defense would get the ball back for the offense, but UMHB’s Baylor Mullins completed a 10-yard pass to Trinton Ynclan on fourth-down and four from the Mount Union 32-yard line to clinch the victory.
UMHB finished with 283 yards of total offense with 169 of those coming through the air. The Cru held Mount Union to 63 passing yards and 242 yards of total offense. UMHB also intercepted three passes to help overcome two Cru turnovers.
Jackson was 15-23 through the air for 159 yards and a TD for UMHB and he added 77 rushing yards and a score on 19 rushes. Walker caught six passes for 65 yards and a score. Keith Reineke topped the Cru defense with 13 tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception.
B.J. Mitchell ran for 137 yards on 31 carries and Davis added 52 yards and a touchdown. But Davis was just 9-23 through the air for 63 yards and he was picked off three times. Adam Mihoci led the Purple Raider defense with 14 total tackles and he has two tackles for loss.
UMHB will now face Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the Stagg Bowl on Friday, December 16th, in Salem, Virginia. That game will kick off at 6:00 PM Central Time. Both teams are looking for their first Division III football national championship. Mount Union has played in all but two Stagg Bowls since 1999 and both times it came as a result of losses to UMHB in the National Semifinals.