Last week, we ran a piece about the dominance of UW-Whitewater and Mount Union. These two schools have owned D3 football for the better part of two decades, but their reign will eventually come to an end. This is the first of three pieces about the three schools who could be the one to do it.
The Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders went 14-1 last season thanks to dominant play on both sides of the ball. Their offense averaged 46.6 points per game, more than triple the 13.4 ppg their defense allowed. The only game in which they scored fewer than 30 points was the only game they lost — 16-15 to UW-Whitewater in the National Semifinals.
Mary Hardin-Baylor finished the season in the D3 top-ten in scoring offense and rushing defense, and won each of their first 14 games by double-digits.
An absurd 22 Crusaders earned either first team, second team, or honorable mention All-Conference recognition a season ago, and 12 of them are back. They lost nine of their ten first teamers, but nine of the ten players on the roster with ten or more carries last season are back for the offense.
They got off to a bit of a slow start in their season opener against BR-40 Millsaps last weekend, and held a narrow, one-touchdown lead at half. The second half was more along the lines of what we expect from Mary Hardin-Baylor though.
The Crusaders shut the Majors out in the second half, and scored in all three phases in the third quarter alone: a field goal, a rushing touchdown, a pick-six, and a punt return TD. Junior quarterback Zach Anderson went 12-of-23 for 185 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions, and added a further 26 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. As a team, the Crusaders gained nearly 400 yards of offense in the game and averaged a full six yards per play.
Considering the Millsaps team they demolished last weekend had the highest HeroSports of any opponent the Crusaders will face this season, it would be shocking to see them suffer a loss before the playoffs. Their opponents’ average preseason HeroSports was 83.6, and the highest-ranked opponent left on their schedule is BR-46 Louisiana College who they’ll play at home on October 18.
After the heartbreaking defeat they suffered in the playoffs last season, you know the guys at Mary Hardin-Baylor are itching for another shot at Whitewater, and it seems likely they’ll get it. This time they have to be ready.