Belton, TX – The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team overcame several costly second-quarter mistakes and controlled the third quarter on the way to a 32-20 victory over Wesley College in the Quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III National Championships Saturday in Belton, Texas. The Cru improves to 13-0 and advances to the Semifinals next weekend to face Mount Union. The loss ends the Wolverines season at 10-2 with both of the losses coming to UMHB.
The Cru grabbed an early 2-0 lead after Wesley fumbled into its own end zone on a swing pass, the Wolverines fell on the ball for a safety. UMHB took the ensuing free kick and drove 50 yards before LiDarral Bailey hit Jon Ross with an 18-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 9-0 Cru 7:59 into the first. Wesley answered with a 44-yard scoring strike from Justin Sottilare to Steve Koudossou with 5:28 left in the first quarter to make it 9-7. Chad Peevey's 21-yard field goal stretched the UMHB lead to 12-7 on the final play of the first quarter. The Cru would block a Wesley punt and drive to the Wolverine nine-yard line before an errant pitch was recovered by the Wolverines, setting up Askia Jahad's three-yard scoring run to give Wesley its first lead of the game at 14-12. UMHB jumped offside on fourth down to keep that drive alive. Another UMHB fumble set up the Wolverines deep in Cru territory and Dan Tryon hit a 22-yard field goal to make it 17-12 Wesley at the half. UMHB blocked another Tryon field goal try to end the half.
The Cru missed a field goal of its own on the opening drive of the second half, but forced a three-and-out and retook the lead at 18-17 on Bailey's 20-yard swing pass touchdown to Darius Wilson. Mike Maldonado intercepted Sottilare's pass on the next possession and UMHB used Bailey's two-yard TD flip to Caleb Moore to push the lead to 25-17 with 1:16 left in the third. UMHB blocked another Wesley field goal attempt on the next drive and returned it for an apparent touchdown, but an illegal kicking penalty gave the Wolverines another try. This time Tryon converted from 23 yards out to cut the gap to 25-20. UMHB marched 55 yards in three plays before Bailey hit Moore from 23 yards out to make it 32-20. Wesley drove to the Cru four-yard line on the next possession, but the Cru held on four straight plays and then ran out the clock to clinch the victory.
UMHB outgained the Wolverines 444 to 342 in total offense to help overcome two turnovers. The Cru rolled up 249 rushing yards while holding Wesley to 89 yards on the ground.
Bailey was 16-20 for 195 yards and tied a school-record with four touchdown passes. He also rushed for 95 yards. Elijah Hudson added 103 rushing yards and Moore caught four passes for 51 yards and two touchdowns. Javicz Jones had 10 tackles, a forced fumble, two pass break-ups and a blocked kick to lead the UMHB defense.
Sottilare went 21-43 for 253 yards and a TD and Jahad finished with 86 rushing yards and a score for Wesley. Sosthene Kaepula posted a game-high 18 tackles to lead the Wolverines defense and Derrick Bender added 11 more.
The Cru will now play in the semifinals for the first time since the 2008 season and the fourth time overall. UMHB will face Mount Union for the first time since beating the Purple Raiders 38-35 in the 2004 National Semifinals. The Cru is 13-0 for the first time in school history, has tied the school and American Southwest Conference single-season record for victories and has won a school-record 13 straight games. Mount Union is the consensus #1 team in the country and is also 13-0 after beating Widener 72-17 on Saturday.