Crusaders

Senior quarterback Ryan Redding could make his second straight start for No. 2 UMHB, which hosts Howard Payne on Saturday.

BELTON — The biggest question at Mary Hardin-Baylor this week is whether senior quarterback Kyle King will play Saturday in the penultimate game of the regular season.

After throwing for 1,310 yards and 21 touchdowns while starting the first seven games this season, King was sidelined last week with turf toe, and preliminary indications early this week point toward him missing his second straight game.

“Kyle still has quite a bit of pain in his turf toe. I don’t know for sure the timetable on when he can be back,” Crusaders head coach Pete Fredenburg said. “It’s a matter of being able to manage the pain and him being able to push off and do the things necessary.

“(The trainers) are not optimistic. We’re trying to speed the process up every way we can think, but I’m concerned.”

If King can’t play, that means Ryan Redding is in line to make his second consecutive start and the third of his career when No. 2 UMHB (8-0, 7-0 American Southwest Conference) hosts Howard Payne (6-2, 5-2) at noon Saturday. The senior was 8-of-20 passing for 114 yards and ran for a score in last week’s 29-0 victory over Belhaven.

“I was proud of him for getting in there and doing some of the things we’ve been wanting him to do for years,” Fredenburg said. “I think he did OK. He’s going to be a lot better. He’s going to learn from that game.

“He gave us some confidence in him with his ability to run the option. He adds a dimension with his ability to run. I think he’s going to get more and more confidence as he goes along. Hopefully, we’ll get our offense moving the ball a little more consistently this week.”

Also in the mix to see time behind center is Jackson Tingler, a 6-foot-4 sophomore who spent last spring with the junior varsity squad before moving into a varsity backup role this season.

“We’re bringing Jackson Tingler along. He’s very talented. He’s getting more and more reps, and we hope to get a chance to see him Saturday,” Fredenburg said. “We feel like he made some positive strides last week. Our coaches say he is probably the best thrower we have.”

Defending the Yellow Jackets

One week after shutting out a Belhaven offense that employs a physical style with its ground attack — specifically its big quarterback — the UMHB defense faces a much different challenge this week against Howard Payne.

The Yellow Jackets, who lost back-to-back weeks against Belhaven and Hardin-Simmons following a 6-0 start, rank first in the ASC in passing (336.1 yards per game) and total offense (496.3 yards) and are second in scoring (38.4 points).

Sophomore quarterback Landon McKinney is the triggerman with 2,328 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. Receivers Jake Parker (42 catches, 822 yards, nine TDs) and Otis Lanier (38 receptions, 638 yards, seven TDs) — both transfers — are his favorite targets.

“They look like Baylor on offense and Iowa State on defense,” Fredenburg said of the Yellow Jackets. “They’ve got some junior college wide receivers, so they’re pretty good there, and the quarterback delivers the ball well. It will be a challenge for our defense, but it will be a different challenge than what we faced against Belhaven. It won’t be the same kind of physicality.”

Rankings

The first set of NCAA regional rankings, which are used to determine and seed the playoff qualifiers, are expected to be released today.

As for the Division III coaches poll, the top 10 remained unchanged again this week. Reigning national champion North Central (8-0) is still at the top, followed by UMHB, Wisconsin-Whitewater (8-0), Mount Union (8-0), St. John’s (8-0), Linfield (7-0), Delaware Valley (8-0), Hardin-Simmons (7-1), Wheaton (7-1) and Central (8-0).