BELTON - Two of the top defenses in the country met on Saturday, and neither defense disappointed the fans in attendance.
The Crusaders advance to meet Birmingham Southern in the second round of the playoffs next week. The NCAA will announce the location and time on Sunday.
"This was an incredibly eye-opening experience that the level of play that we're about to encounter has risen across the board,” UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg said.
"The game played out how we thought it would,” Trinity coach Jerheme Urban added. “We expected a slugfest, and so the game being decided in the last second was not a surprise."
Three thoughts from the press box
Tough sledding: Both defenses specialize in stopping the run, and Saturday was a great example by both teams.
Through three quarters, UMHB had 100 yards rushing on 30 carries while Trinity had gained nine yards on 14 attempts. The Cru added 79 rushing yards on 16 carries in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
"We knew we'd have to run the ball, and we were able to get a couple of good runs, but we weren't able to sustain it,” Urban said.
"We struggled running the ball today, and it's tough when it's hard to run the ball,” Tigers quarterback Tucker Horn added.
"Their front six was good, and we thought they would wear down eventually, and that's what happened,” UMHB quarterback Kyle King said.
All or nothing: The critical play in the game happened when UMHB attempted a field goal from 39 yards on fourth down with six yards needed to continue the drive. Brandon Cunningham nailed the field goal, but Trinity was called for offsides.
Fredenburg decided to take the points off the board and go for the first down, needing only one yard. Aphonso Thomas made the decision pay off with a burst up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown.
"Good Lord, who is dumb enough to do that? I've always been taught don't ever take points off the board,” Fredenburg said. "I wanted to go for the first down, but the odds of us making it on fourth and six was not good, so the penalty gave us an opportunity to go for it on fourth and one. I felt like if we could get a touchdown that it would end the ballgame."
"They were running the iso dive, and that was probably the only time in the game where they got the crease, and it came at the right time for them,” Urban said.
Bringing the pressure: The Cru defense is known to stop the run and defend the pass. However, the Cru is not known for blitzing very often. That changed on Saturday with defensive coordinator Larry Harmon calling multiple blitzes against a solid Trinity passing attack.
"We haven't been blitzing a lot, but we felt we needed to today because he can pick apart the defense if he's comfortable,” Fredenburg said. “Their receivers do a great job of running routes, and the quarterback gets the ball out so quick that we had to blitz today.
"The quarterback is such a magnificent player, and I wanted to see how he was going to do when facing some pressure. So we would blitz some, and then we would show blitz and play coverage which worked out well for us."
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