For a second there, it looked like Mount Union was going to pull off one of its patented fourth quarter victories. The Purple Raiders trailed Mary Hardin-Baylor 14-6 going into the fourth quarter, but scored a touchdown with 4:24 left and needed just a two point conversion to tie it up.
Heavy pressure from the Cru defense forced an incompletion, and UMHB regained the ball with a narrow lead.
Game over, right? Well, not quite. The defending champs wouldn't go down easy. The Purple Raider forced a quick three-and-out, and UMHB put their defense back on the field with a two-point lead, 2:32 on the clock.
The drive started at Mount Union’s 45. Running back BJ Mitchell, who had accumulated 146 rushing yards on 31 carries, took the ball on the first play, but managed just two yards. Then QB Dom Davis' pass to Jared Ruth fell incomplete. Finally, facing a 3rd-and-8, Davis attempted another pass that was picked off by UMHB's Ajay Fanene.
Game over, right? Well… UMHB gained only six yards in three plays, which left the Cru with a 4th-and-4 at the Mount Union 32 and the Purple Raiders looked set to get the ball back with 45 seconds left on the clock.
Then a miracle happened. Or a gutsy play. Whichever you prefer. The punt team hit the field after a timeout, but, in a terrific bit of deception, UMHB punter Baylor Mullins took the ball and threw it 10 yards down the field to a wide open Trinton Ynclan, who secured the pass, fell to the turf and sealed the victory.
Game over, right? Right. Mary Hardin-Baylor is on to the D3 football championship for the second time in program history.
The Cru defense held Mount Union to 242 yards of offense, including just 63 through the air. Davis completed just nine passes for 63 yards, no scores and three interceptions. He managed an eight-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter, but had difficulty moving the ball against UMHB’s stellar defense.
The Raiders offense had to settle for field goals through much of the game, but, to their credit, still put themselves in great position to steal a win.
Except, UMHB was just too good. The Cru were led defensively by Keith Reineke, who totaled 13 tackles, one tackle for loss and one interception. Raylon Hickey had the third INT.
Offensively, they were even more impressive against Mount Union’s strong defensive front. Blake Jackson completed 15-of-23 passes for 159 and one touchdown — which was actually the result of a pretty lucky play. It bounced off the defender’s hands and into the arms of Wykeyhe Walker in the end zone midway through the second quarter. He added 19 rushes for 87 yards and a score.
Jackson constantly made big plays, and probably could’ve had a much bigger day if UMHB’s offense didn’t turn to “conservative mode” in the second half. His ability to run the ball was the key of the game. Mount Union put a lot of pressure on the young QB, but he escaped the pocket several times, extended plays and made a few gutsy throws to keep the offense humming along.
Now Jackson and the Cru get set face UW-Oshkosh’s stout defense for the 2016 D3 Football Championship.