Crusaders

UMHB running back Montana Miller (22) leaps over two Southwestern defenders during the Crusaders’ 52-7 victory Saturday afternoon.

BELTON — One of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s top priorities this week is finding a way to get maximum production from the quarterback position, and the top two players in the mix to deliver the goods are Tommy Bowden and Kyle King.

Bowden, a sophomore who started both games this season, is an effective scrambler and elusive runner but has struggled to deliver passes accurately.

King, a junior in his second year with the program since transferring from Howard Payne, is a more gifted thrower but can’t match Bowden’s running skills.

The Crusaders (2-0, 2-0 American Southwest Conference) have four more days to decide who will be their guy — or whether to use both players depending on field position and personnel packages — for Saturday afternoon’s game at East Texas Baptist (2-1, 2-1) in Marshall.

“We’ll have them both ready to go,” UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg said Monday. “Tommy’s dynamic when he runs, and we certainly want to be able to utilize that. But he has to be able to set up and throw the ball down the field.

“Kyle always does a nice job and is a great competitor. I think we’ll see some competition this week (during practice).”

Bowden is completing less than 50 percent of his attempts (18 of 40) after going 7-of-17 for 97 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 52-7 win over Southwestern last week, when he offset his passing woes by rushing for a team-high 112 yards.

“Tommy has a little bit of a problem with escaping pressure and then getting his feet reset to throw. Sometimes, he throws off an unbalanced stance that creates some bad throws,” Fredenburg said. “We’ve focused in on why that happens and how we can help him. We have to get him to establish his balance.”

King completed seven of his eight attempts for 90 yards and a touchdown last week, when he also had two short scoring runs.

Regardless of who is behind center, Fredenburg wants to see his offense establish more consistency and utilize its weapons on the outside.

“I think we came out of the Southwestern game with a lot of confidence. However, we still have a lot of work to do in our passing game,” he said. “Our wide receivers are very gifted, and we have to get them the ball.”

Facing the Tigers

ETBU is coming off a 23-17 loss at Louisiana College that dropped the Tigers a half-game behind UMHB and LC in the ASC East Division standings.

The Tigers average 290 yards and 29.6 points per game while giving up 342 yards and 18.6 points

“Watching the video, you can see that they’re big and very talented,” Fredenburg said of ETBU. “They have a lot of size that will create issues for us, and they have some really good skills guys — like always — that can hurt you.”

UMHB’s defense has been its usual stingy self through the first two games of the abbreviated spring season, allowing only 108.5 yards and 3.5 points per outing despite implementing some scheme changes aimed at getting more defenders involved near the line of scrimmage.

“As you start going through the season, every opponent presents a different twist that you have to defend,” Fredenburg said. “I think our guys are really starting to come together with the package we’re putting in, and (defensive coordinator Larry Harmon) and his guys do such a tremendous job of putting that together.

“Obviously, East Texas Baptist brings a different dynamic than Southwestern did. We’ll have our hands full, but we’ll come up with a good plan. I’m sure of that.”

Getting his kicks

When kicker Anthony Avila booted a 42-yard field goal on UMHB’s opening possession against Southwestern, he extended his school record for field goals made to 36 and took sole possession of the ASC career record in that category.

The junior out of Troy has also jumped into seventh place on the Crusaders’ all-time scoring list with 255 points and is just a field goal away from moving into sixth.