BELTON, Texas – Jefferson Fritz intercepted a pass in the end zone to thwart a fourth-quarter Saint John's rally as the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team held off the Johnnies 21-18 in an NCAA Quarterfinal Game Saturday in Belton. UMHB improves to 13-0 on the season with the victory and advances to the Semifinals for the third straight season. The loss ends Saint John's season at 12-1.
The Cru took a 21-11 lead when Jase Hammack hit T.J. Josey for a 51-yard touchdown strike with 10:32 left to play. Saint John's would turn the ball over on downs on its next two possessions and Elijah Cross intercepted a Jackson Erdmann pass at the UMHB two-yard line on the next drive. The Cru could only run 43 seconds off the clock before Ryan LaCosse broke through to block a UMHB punt. Erdmann hit Will Gillach for a six-yard touchdown strike on the next play to cut the gap to 21-18 with 1:49 remaining. Austin Solors perfectly executed an onside kick to give the Johnnies the ball back at their own 48-yard line two seconds later. Erdmann hit Adam Essler with a 27-yard completion on the next play to put the ball at the Cru 25-yard line. His throw into the end zone deflected off of Gillach's hands on the next play and Fritz pull it down for his second pick of the day to clinch the victory for UMHB.
The Cru opened the scoring after forcing a turnover on downs on the opening drive of the game. Hammack found K.J. Miller for a 41-yard scoring strike just 4:59 into the game. Saint John's cut it to 7-3 on Zach Barwick's 30-yard field goal with 12:01 left in the second quarter and it would stay that way into the half. Markeith Miller's three-yard scoring run stretched it to 14-3 with 6:25 left in the third quarter. Saint John's closed the gap to 14-11 when Erdmann found Gillach for a 30-yard score and added the two-point conversion with 12:24 left to play. Hammack hit Josey to push it back to a ten-point lead on the next UMHB possession.
The Johnnies finished with 465 yards of total offense with 418 of those coming through the air. UMHB totaled 315 total yards with 235 coming courtesy of the passing game. The Cru did not turn the ball over, but sacked Erdmann four times and intercepted three passes.
Miller ran for 77 yards and a score for UMHB and Hammack went 15-28 for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Josey caught four passes for 91 yards and a TD and K.J. Miller added five grabs for 59 yards and a score. Fritz broke the UMHB and ASC record for single-season interceptions by moving his total to ten and De Jackson had a team-high 10 tackles.
Erdmann was 28-48 for Saint John's for 418 yards and two touchdowns. Gillach caught eight passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns and Essler had 11 receptions for 121 yards. Joey Eckhoff also went over 100 yards with four catches for 101 yards. Essler led the Johnnies ground game with 29 yards on seven carries. Ted Kalina and James Inman had nine tackles apiece for Saint John's, who was playing in the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2006.
UMHB will now face Wisconsin-Whitewater in the NCAA Division III National Semifinals next Saturday. The site and time for that game will be announced on Sunday. The Warhawks (12-0) advanced with a 26-12 victory over Bethel University. The Cru will be facing Wisconsin-Whitewater in the National Semifinals for the fourth time in program history.