Jon Wallin | Sports Information Director, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

BELTON, Texas – The sixth time was the charm for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team as the Cru knocked off Wisconsin-Whitewater for the first time in six tries to clinch a third straight trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the Division III National Championship Game. UMHB built a 17-0 halftime lead and then withstood the Warhawks second-half challenge to post a 31-14 win in an NCAA Semifinal Game Saturday evening in Belton.

The first quarter was a scoreless defensive struggle as the two teams traded punts. UMHB finally broke the deadlock on DeNerian Thomas’ four-yard scoring plunge with 10:33 left in the opening half. The Cru forced a fumble and turned it into a 31-yard Anthony Avila field goal to stretch the lead to 10-0 with 3:47 remaining before halftime. UMHB’s defense forced a Whitewater punt on the ensuing drive and Aaron Sims fielded it at the Cru 10-yard line, dashed across the field and found a seam up the UMHB sideline for a 90-yard touchdown return to push the lead to 17-0 at halftime. The Warhawks forced a Cru punt on the opening possession of the second half and drove 66 yards before Cole Wilber hit Bryce Bellefeuille with a two-yard scoring pass to cut the lead to 17-7. It would stay that way as UWW lost another fumble and missed a field goal. UMHB’s Keith Gipson intercepted a tipped pass and the Cru scored four plays later on Markeith Miller’s 10-yard run to make it 24-7. Ronny Ponick’s one-yard scoring run on the next series closed the gap to 24-14, but UMHB recovered the ensuing onside kick and Miller added some breathing room with a 15-yard scoring scamper. Jefferson Fritz intercepted Wilber’s desperation pass on the final Warhawk drive to ice the victory.

UMHB ran for 179 yards as a team and finished with 312 yards of total offense in the victory. The Cru defense limited the Warhawks to just 261 total yards and forced four turnovers in the game.

Miller ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns for UMHB. Jase Hammack was 14-19 passing for 109 yards. K.J. Miller caught seven passes for the Cru and Jonel Reed had three grabs for 42 yards. Raylon Hickey recorded a team high 12 tackles and Gipson added nine stops and two break-ups to his interception.

Ponick ran for 70 yards and a score on 14 carries for the Warhawks. Wilber was 13-18 passing for 107 yards and a score, but he was picked off twice and sacked twice. Derek Kumerow had a team-high four catches for 52 yards and Matt Anderson led the UWW defense with 13 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.

UMHB improves to 14-0 with the victory and moves into the Stagg Bowl for the third consecutive year and fourth time in program history. The Cru will face defending National Champion Mount Union (14-0) in a rematch of last year’s Stagg Bowl Friday night at 6 pm in Shenandoah, Texas. The Purple Raiders won last year’s meeting 12-0 to claim the school’s 13th Division III football national title. The all-time series between the two teams is tied 2-2