BELTON — Two days after Mary Hardin-Baylor recorded a lopsided season-opening victory despite an uneven performance, the words of Crusaders coach Pete Fredenburg showed that his program will take a pragmatic approach moving forward.
The Crusaders are young. Growing pains are inevitable early in the season, and there’s no reason to panic.
“Offensively we struggled, and we gave up too many plays on defense. We’re young,” Fredenburg said Monday in reference to UMHB’s 56-15 victory over Albright. “So many of us had such incredible experiences dealing with the seniors (from last year’s team) that you take things for granted, and now you can’t. You assume a guy knows the little subtleties that we do, but some of them don’t.
“Defensively, I think we’re going to be OK. Offensively, we still have some question marks about our quarterbacks and running backs, but we’re going to continue to grow.”
Top-ranked UMHB, the defending national champion, mustered only 88 yards and 17 points in the first half against an Albright team that came in riding a 12-game losing streak that included a 91-7 drubbing in last year’s meeting.
The Crusaders had an uptick in production after halftime, producing 286 yards and 39 points. Overall, though, they completed only 11 of 23 pass attempts, and 115 of their 206 yards rushing came on two carries.
“Some of it was (new) personnel, and some of it was our fault as coaches,” Fredenburg said. “I don’t think we reacted very well as a coaching staff to what (Albright) was doing. They were doing some stuff that was so bizarre that we didn’t recognize it.”
Defensively, UMHB forced three turnovers and held Albright to 273 total yards. The biggest problem on that side of the ball was in third-and-long situations, which the Lions converted for first downs on multiple occasions.
Overall, Fredenburg sees no reasons to make radical changes on either side of the ball only one game into the season.
“We have to deal with our football team,” he said. “Sunday is always an incredible day for us because we watch the film and we have to be critical and realistic about the mistakes that I made and the coaches made and the players made. We all have to come to grips that we all have to do better than that.
“You have to put things in perspective and say, ‘Are we asking too much of youngsters?’ You ask so much, though, because you want potential and performance to balance out. When you have great potential but aren’t performing at that level, that’s where we as coaches enter the picture. We have to make sure it balances out.”
UMHB plays its American Southwest Conference opener at home Saturday night against Belhaven (0-2, 0-1), which dropped its first ASC game 20-14 to Louisiana College last week.
The Blazers average only 363 yards per game — 268 through the air — but give up just 343 an outing.
“Belhaven is like us. They’re young, but they’re extremely well-coached and do a nice job executing,” Fredenburg said. “They’re 0-2, though, so they’re going to come in here like Albright did, ready to fight.”
Senior quarterback Jase Hammack is expected to miss his second straight game after suffering a setback while rehabbing from offseason ankle surgery.
Senior wide receiver Jonel Reed should play this week after missing the opener with a thigh injury, but senior receiver Aaron Sims — who is in the midst of a five-game suspension because of an offseason violation of team rules — tore his Achilles tendon during practice last week and is out for the season.
Sophomore strong safety Jayden Smith is expected to miss three more weeks after breaking a bone in his hand during practice. Freshman Drake Johnson started the opener in place of Smith and intercepted two passes.
In the backfield
With Hammack still out, Fredenburg must again decide between sophomore Ryan Redding and senior Luke Poorman for a starting quarterback.
In his first career start, Redding was 4-of-10 passing for 55 yards and a touchdown to go with a rushing score while playing the entire first half and the opening series of the second.
Poorman went 6-for-10 for 87 yards and a TD in one quarter of action.
“You have to defend Ryan Redding because I think we put him in some bad situations,” Fredenburg said. “The play-calling and trying to figure out what (Albright) was doing on defense caused us some concern.
“When we put the tight end down (in a stance on the line), they stabilized what they were doing defensively. That was when Luke was in, so it was exciting to see him have the success he had. But in defense of Ryan, he went in with some uncertainty and didn’t figure it out for a while.”
Fredenburg was non-committal about the identity of this week’s starter.
“It will be Luke or Ryan,” he said.
The coach took the same approach to the running back position, where the Crusaders used three players in the opener with mixed results.
“Who do you like better?” Fredenburg asked Monday’s media gathering.
UMHB senior linebacker Tevin Jones, who hadn’t played in a game since December of 2017 after sitting out last season, was named the ASC’s defensive player of the week for his 15-tackle performance against Albright.