ALPINE — Mary Hardin-Baylor shook off the effects from a bus ride of 400-plus miles and overcame a sluggish start to demolish Sul Ross State 72-14 on Saturday afternoon at Jackson Field.
No. 2 UMHB (7-0, 6-0 American Southwest Conference) held just a 7-0 lead after the first quarter before scoring 31 points in the second and pulling away with 34 more after halftime.
“Obviously, we had a little hangover from the trip or whatever, and we weren’t focused very well at all to start,” Crusaders head coach Pete Fredenburg said. “We finally settled down, though, and played a lot better.”
The Crusaders had first-and goal at the Sul Ross State 3-yard line on their opening possession but didn’t come away with points after a miscue on the snap while attempting a field goal.
They finally got on the board with Kyle King’s 2-yard touchdown keeper with 5:32 left in the first before pouring it on in the second.
It started with KJ Miller’s 88-yard punt return for a score and continued with Anthony Avila’s 42-yard field goal after Jefferson Fritz returned a punt 36 yards to the Lobos 25.
Another fumbled snap on third down from the Sul Ross State 11 cost UMHB points again, and the Lobos (1-5, 1-5) struck quickly with T.J. Deshields’ 52-yard TD pass to Vicente Luevano on a flea-flicker to cut the gap to 17-7.
The Crusaders answered with 21 points in the final 4 minutes of the half, using Aphonso Thomas’ 1-yard scoring plunge and King TD passes of 14 yards to Miller and 40 yards to Brandon Jordan to go up 38-7 heading into the break.
The Lobos’ only response was Deshields’ 80-yard scoring pass to Ozias Wright 2 minutes into the third, and it was all UMHB from there.
Brenton Martin hauled in a 30-yard throw from King to make it 45-14, and Ryan Redding — promoted to the second-string quarterback spot this week — directed four scoring drives.
Redding had TD passes of 12 yards to Connor Mullins, 55 yards to Martin and 68 yards to Aaron Sims to go with a 14-yard scoring run.
Redding finished 10-of-13 for 201 yards, King was 9-of-14 for 154, Thomas rushed for 86 yards and Kenneth Cormier added 84 on the ground as the Crusaders racked up 573 yards to help offset two fumbles and 13 penalties for 95 yards.
“I think Ryan is going to be OK,” Fredenburg said. “We had some problems with his cadence, with linemen moving, and we’ll work that out.”
Except for the two big scoring plays, UMHB held Sul Ross State in check all afternoon. The Crusaders limited the Lobos to 219 yards — 132 of which came on the TD throws — and forced two turnovers.
“The defense is getting better and better,” said Fredenburg, whose team returns home for games against Belhaven and Howard Payne before closing the regular season at McMurry. “We had to move around some of our linebackers, but we’re getting healthy. It will be interesting to see how it all falls into place when we have everybody back and completely healthy.