BELTON, Texas – Mary Hardin-Baylor used a dominating defensive performance to grab an early lead and then found enough second-half offense to make it stand up in a 45-23 victory against St. John Fisher in an NCAA Division III national quarterfinal. The Cru improves to 13-0 on the season with the win and advances to the NCAA semifinals for the second consecutive year and fifth time overall. The loss ends the Cardinals season at 10-3.
UMHB grabbed a 2-0 lead when Andy McAteer's pressure forced an intentional grounding call in the St. John Fisher end zone following a 75-yard Chad Peevey punt to pin the Cardinals deep in their own territory. A McAteer interception set up Peevey's 47-yard field goal to push the lead to 5-0 with 6:45 left in the first quarter. Brodrick Crain gave UMHB a 12-0 lead when he picked off another Tyler Fenti pass and returned it 35 yards for a score with 3:33 left in the first period. UMHB turned the ball over on downs midway through the second quarter and St. John Fisher went 75 yards in 13 plays before Cody Miller scored on a two-yard run. The Cru blocked the extra point to keep the lead and 12-6 and used a seven-play, 61-yard drive, capped by Elijah Hudson's one-yard to take a 19-6 lead with 35 seconds to go in the first half.
UMHB drove for a 36-yard Peevey field goal to push the lead to 22-6 and Marcus Wimby hit Michael Carpenter with a 15-yard scoring strike to make it 29-6 Cru with 7:08 to go in the third. The Cardinals used another one-yard Miller scoring run to cut the gap to 29-12, but Cody Jones intercepted the two-point conversion attempt and returned it 100 yards to make it 31-12 UMHB. Brendan Carey hit a 26-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and Fenti found Nathan Nigolian with a 19-yard scoring strike following a Cardinal interception. St. John Fisher converted the two-point conversion to close to within 31-23, but UMHB iced the game with a pair of touchdown runs from reserve quarterback Brian Gallagher in the final six minutes.
UMHB finished with just 120 rushing yards and 371 yards of total offense in the game. St. John Fisher totaled 411 passing yards, but just 41 rushing and the Cardinals turned the ball over four times and allowed six sacks.
Hudson ran for 49 yards and a score on 20 carries for UMHB and he caught four passes for 110 more yards. Zach Anderson threw for 158 yards on 9-20 passing and Eric Nelson caught three passes for 93 yards. Baylor Mullins had a team-high 14 tackles for the Cru and Deshon Kinsey chipped in 13 more. Crain broke up five passes and added seven tackles to go with his interception return for a touchdown.
Fenti was 37-60 for 411 yards and a score for the Cardinals. He also ran for 22 yards on 18 carries, but was sacked six times and committed three turnovers. Dan Rudy caught 11 passes for 167 yards and Kevin Francis added 11 grabs for 108 yards. Sean Preish had 11 tackles and Jordan Andrews posted nine more, including one of St. John Fisher's two sacks in the game.
UMHB will now face Wisconsin-Whitewater in the NCAA Division III semifinals next Saturday. The Warhawks are also 13-0 on the season and beat Linfield College 28-17 in the quarterfinals. UMHB will face UWW in the semifinals for the third time and this will be the fifth all-time meeting between the two teams. The Warhawks lead the all-time series 4-0.