University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Press Release:
ABILENE, Texas – The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team came up with several huge defensive plays down the stretch as the Cru knocked off Hardin-Simmons University 23-15 to win the American Southwest Conference Championship Saturday afternoon in Abilene. The two teams were facing off in the first true conference championship game in league history.
UMHB blocked a kick on the Cowboys opening possession and a 43-yard pass completion to Kadarius Daniels set up the Cru’s opening score. Kyle King ran it in from three yards out to put UMHB up 7-0 with 8:21 remaining in the opening period. The Cru defense forced another punt and UMHB drove to the HSU four-yard line. The drive stalled from there and the Cru settled for Brandon Cunningham’s 22-yard field goal to make it 10-0 early in the second quarter. UMHB missed another field goal try before Cunningham connected on a 25-yarder to give the Cru a 13-0 halftime lead.
Hardin-Simmons got on the board on Kyle Jones’ two-yard touchdown pass to Gatlin Martin on the Cowboys opening possession of the second half to cut the lead to 13-7. UMHB answered with a nine-play, 56-yard drive capped by Cunningham’s 37-yard field goal to make it 16-7. The Cru got the ball back and Brenton Martin found Gary Ruckman with a seven-yard touchdown pass to give UMHB a 23-7 advantage. Hardin-Simmons appeared to answer on the next possession as Jones hit Rae Millsap for a 63-yard gain, but Jayden Smith punched the ball loose at the goal line to prevent the touchdown and give UMHB the ball back. The Cru could not score and HSU used a four-yard TD run by Myles Featherston and two-point conversion to close the gap to 23-15. UMHB threw an interception on its next drive, but Drake Johnson picked off a Jones pass at the Cowboy 34-yard line. The Cru drove inside the HSU five, but Cunningham’s 20-yard field goal attempt was blocked. The Cowboys were able to pick up one first down, but the UMHB defense forced four consecutive incompletions to take over on downs. The Cru ran out the clock and set off a celebration as UMHB clinched another conference title.
The Cru rolled up 232 rushing yards and 389 yards of total offense on the day. UMHB limited Hardin-Simmons to 94 yards on the ground and 336 total yards. The Cru also held the ball for 33:26 of the contest.
Kenneth Cormier, Jr. ran for 144 yards in his first career start at running back for UMHB. King added 56 yards and a TD on the ground while completing 8-15 passes for 130 yards. Daniels had three catches for 70 yards. Jacob Mueller led the Cru defense with 11 total tackles and five tackles for loss.
Jones was 16-28 through the air for HSU for 242 yards and a touchdown. Kolby Youngblood ran for 74 yards on 14 carries. Three different players had seven tackles apiece for the Cowboys defense.
UMHB finishes the season at 5-0 overall and wins the 16th conference championship in program history. Hardin-Simmons finishes the season at 4-1. The two teams advanced to the title game after winning their divisions as the ASC moved to divisional play in football for the first time in league history for the spring season.