BELTON, Texas — The Mary Hardin-Baylor football team only led once, but that lead came when it mattered most as the top-ranked Cru held off Hardin-Simmons University 15-14 on Anthony Avila's 43-yard field goal as time expired Saturday in Belton. Avila's game-winner moved UMHB to 7-0 overall and 6-0 in American Southwest Conference play. The Cowboys, ranked 14th in the country, drop to 5-2 overall and 4-2 in the ASC with the heartbreaking loss.
The defenses dominated in a scoreless first quarter. UMHB forced a punt on the opening series, but the ball skipped off a Cru blocker and set up the Cowboys at the UMHB 24-yard line. The Cru defense held and stopped two Hardin-Simmons drives inside UMHB territory in the opening period. Meanwhile, the Cru offense ran just six plays and did not manage a first down in the first 15 minutes.
The Cowboys took a 7-0 lead on Jaquan Hemphill's six-yard run with 14:23 left in the second quarter. It would stay that way until UMHB put together a seven-play, 62-yard drive and Jase Hammack hit Jonel Reed with a 32-yard touchdown strike to put the Cru on the board. UMHB missed the extra point after a penalty backed up the Cru and Avila also missed a 45-yard field on the final play of the first half to leave it 7-6 Hardin-Simmons at the half.
The Cowboys stretched the lead to 14-6 when Gatlin Martin scored on a two-yard run on a fake field goal with 3:48 left in the third quarter. The Cru answered with Hammack's 30-yard touchdown pass to Gary Ruckman with 11:26 left in the game. The two teams traded punts before Hardin-Simmons took over on its own seven-yard line with 7:28 remaining. The Cowboys only moved the ball to their own 29-yard line, but ran more than five minutes off the clock before a short punt set up UMHB at the HSU 47-yard line with 1:17 left to play. Hammack completed all four of his passes to move the ball to the Cowboys' 26-yard line and Avila drilled a 43-yarder at the final gun to set off a wild celebration as the Cru escaped with the win.
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UMHB finished with 211 yards of total offense on just 48 plays. Hardin-Simmons had 234 yards of total offense on 65 plays and held the ball for 35:56 of the game. UMHB's fumble on the punt was the game's only turnover.
Hammack was 10-17 passing for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Reed caught five passes for 67 yards and a score and McDaniel ran for 93 yards on 28 carries. Tevin Jones set a new Cru single-game record with 20 tackles and Akeem Jackson (15 tackles) and Joey Longoria (10 tackles) also reached double figures for UMHB.
Hemphill ran for 148 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries for Hardin-Simmons and he also caught two passes for 12 yards. Jones was 6-7 passing for just 53 yards as the Cowboys focused on the run game and keeping the ball away from the Cru offense. Terrell Franklin had a team-high nine tackles to lead the HSU defense.
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UMHB kept is winning streak alive at 22 straight games and the Cru remained undefeated in regular-season games at Crusader Stadium. UMHB has now won 39 consecutive regular-season games and 33 straight ASC contests following Saturday's victory.
The Cru will return to action with a road trip to Louisiana College next Saturday. UMHB will face the Wildcats (2-5, 2-4 ASC) in a noon kickoff at Wildcat Stadium on the LC campus in Pineville, Louisiana.