In Mary Hardin-Baylor’s football history, there is only one team that the Crusaders have never defeated. UMHB will host that team in the NCAA Division III semifinals at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Crusader Stadium in Belton.
The Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks are 5-0 against the Cru, with two of the wins coming during regular-season contests, and three in previous semifinal playoff appearances in 2007, 2008 and 2013. The tradition-rich Warhawks have won six national championships, while UMHB has won one.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Crusaders (13-0) are ranked No. 2 in the nation, while Whitewater (13-0) is ranked No. 4 by one poll and No. 5 by another. In the last meeting between the two teams, the Warhawks posted a 16-15 win in 2013.
UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg knows his team has a difficult task ahead of it.
“Their lines are huge on both sides of the ball,” he said. “They do a nice job of executing their offense, and we have to try to find a way to match their physicality.”
The two teams advanced to the semifinal match by beating two teams from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. UMHB defeated Saint John’s (Minn.), 21-18, last Saturday in Belton, while Whitewater beat Bethel University, 26-12. The quarterfinal game was the closest game the Crusaders have played this year.
“We learned a lot about the resilience of this football team last week,” Fredenburg said. “You also learn about the intensity of the games at this time of year. You have to reach deep and play your best game to be able to move on to the next game.”
The Crusaders are averaging 57.4 points and 464.9 yards of offense per game, while limiting their opponents to 7.5 points and 209.9 yards of offense per game. By comparison, the Warhawks average 43.8 points and 458.4 yards on offense, limiting their opponents to 8.5 points and 225.8 yards offense per game.
Whitewater runs a balanced attack, averaging 254 yards rushing and 204.4 passing per game. UMHB is equally balanced with 249.7 rushing and 215.2 passing yards per game.
Jase Hammack leads the Crusader attack, passing for 1,809 yards and 16 TDs for the year. The team’s leading rusher is Markeith Miller, who is averaging 123.5 yards per game. T.J. Josey and K.J. Miller are the Crusaders’ top receivers.
For the Warhawks, Cole Wilber has passed for 2,326 yards and 24 TDs, while RB Alex Peete has rushed for 1,303 yards and 22 touchdowns.
The Crusaders will be seeking to advance to their third national championship game in program history. The winner of the game will face the winner of the Mount Union-Johns Hopkins game in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl Dec. 14 at Woodforest Bank Stadium in Shenandoah, north of Houston on I-45.