Dec. 6, 2008

Courtesy of Washington & Jefferson Athletics

BELTON, Texas – Mary Hardin-Baylor dominated the first 30 minutes of the game and cruised into the NCAA Division III football semifinals after recording a 63-7 victory over Washington & Jefferson on Saturday afternoon at Tiger Field.

The Crusaders (12-1), who led 49-7 at halftime and rushed for 399 yards, defeated the Presidents (11-2) in the NCAA playoffs for the third time since 2004. UMHB will host Wisconsin-Whitewater next Saturday with a trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl on the line.

Mary Hardin-Baylor wasted little time in claiming the early lead as junior running back Bryson Tucker (Caldwell, Texas/Caldwell) busted loose for a 49-yard gain on the third play of the game and then capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown run.

The Crusaders forced a W&J punt after only three plays and capitalized on the good field position with a four-play, 51-yard scoring drive for a 14-0 advantage at the 9:26 mark. Senior quarterback Josh Saenz (McAllen, Texas/McAllen) lofted a 35-yard pass to junior wideout Pi’Dadro Davis (Jefferson, Texas/Jefferson) for the two-touchdown lead.

The lead grew to 21-0 two minutes later when Saenz rolled left on an option run and scored from 18 yards. The score was set up by a sophomore Aerrtrail Robinson’s (Austin, Texas/LBJ) 38-yard punt return.

The feverish scoring continued 1:40 later as W&J got on the board with a 21-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Bobby Swallow (Salem, Ohio/West Branch) to classmate Luke Espe (Johnstown, Pa./Central Cambria). Junior wide receiver Craig Besong (Baden, Pa./Ambridge) caught two passes on the drive, including a 28-yard one-handed grab.

UMHB answered with another touchdown just over three minutes later. Sophomore Matt Hurst (Whitney, Texas/Baylor Univ.) returned the kickoff 33 yards and then bolted up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown run with 2:03 left in the opening quarter.  

Tucker added a 12-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter and after a W&J fumble, Saenz scored from two yards at the 10:55 mark for a 42-7 lead. UMHB rounded out the first-half scoring with a 21-yard Saenz touchdown pass to sophomore Brian Scott (Cameron, Texas/Yoe).

The Crusaders (12-1) amassed 378 yards of total offense in the first half and averaged 9.7 yards per play. UMHB tacked on two touchdown passes in the second half to round out the scoring.

Saenz rushed 20 times for 131 yards and two touchdowns during the victory, while completing 3-of-5 pass attempts for 90 yards and a pair of scores. Tucker finished with a game-high 131 yards on the ground and scored two times, while Davis led the receiving corps with three catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore defensive end Brenson Bristow (Richardson, Texas/Pearce) paced the defense with six tackles and three sacks.

Swallow finished his historic career at W&J by completing 20-of-32 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. In 40 career games, Swallow passed for 8,990 yards (2nd in W&J history) and 104 touchdowns (12th in Division III history). He set a new NCAA Division III record for fewest interceptions thrown in a career after tossing only 15 in 1,024 pass attempts.

Senior running back Curt Jones (Falconer, N.Y./Falconer) rushed for 38 yards and also caught five passes for 72 yards. He ends his career with 2,887 all-purpose yards and 34 touchdowns.

Senior wide receiver David Ravida (Solon, Ohio/Solon) had four catches for 36 yards as he concluded his career as W&J’s all-time leader with 192 receptions. Besong hauled in four passes for 51 yards.

Junior strong safety Mitch Erdely (Perryopolis, Pa./Geibel) and sophomore free safety Craig Sedunov (West Newton, Pa./Yough) totaled 14 and 13 tackles, respectively, for the Washington & Jefferson defense. Senior linebacker David Gitlitz (Columbus, Ohio/Bexley) moved into second place all-time with 319 career tackles after notching 12 stops.

UMHB out-gained W&J by a 545-222 margin and held the Presidents to -5 yards rushing. The Crusaders also posted six sacks.

Washington & Jefferson ends its season with an 11-2 overall record, becoming only the sixth team in school history to notch 11 victories in a season. The W&J senior class finished with a record of 40-7 and made four appearances in the NCAA Division III playoffs.