No. 2/2 Mary Hardin-Baylor (4-0, 3-0 ASC) vs.
No. 6/7 Hardin-Simmons (4-0, 3-0 ASC)
Saturday, Oct. 6 • 6 p.m. • Crusader Stadium • Belton, Texas
100.7 FM • www.hsuathletics.com
Countdown To Kickoff
▶ It will be a battle of nationally-ranked unbeatens when the Cowboys and Cru play on Saturday night in Belton. UMHB is ranked second in both national polls and the Cowboys are No. 6 by the American Football Coaches Association and No. 7 in the D3football.com poll.
▶ The two teams are the only remaining unbeatens in American Southwest Conference play after three weeks of play. The winner of this game has won at least a share of the ASC title every year since the Cru added football in 1998.
▶ This will be HSU's third trip to Crusader Stadium and obviously it is not an easy place to play. The Cru have posted a 42-2 mark in their stadium that opened in 2013. The Cowboys lost 41-28 in 2014 and 20-15 in 2016 in the previous two meetings, but had second-half leads both games.
▶ The Cowboys have now been ranked 40 straight weeks in the in-season D3football.com poll. HSU has been ranked inside the top 10 for 19 of those weeks and haven't been lower than No. 13 since week No. 8 of the 2015 season.
▶ HSU continued its early-season roll with a 59-17 win over East Texas Baptist. The Cowboys received a combined five touchdowns from Zai Zai Smith and Bryson Hammonds in the contest. The Cowboy defense picked off Brian Baca three times and held the Tigers 150 yards under their total offensive output average.
▶ The Cowboys are playing their fifth straight night game to start the season. HSU is 23-4 all-time under Jesse Burleson in night games. HSU and Mary Hardin-Baylor have never played a game at night in their previous 24 meetings.
▶ With Jaquan Hemphill going out of the game after just three carries, the Cowboys turned the running game over to junior Zai Zai Smith and he delivered with 103 yards on 15 carries and three touchdowns. Smith is a bigger back that doesn't mind taking contact and looks to finish runs strong. HSU also used the quarterback run game with sophomore Bryson Hammonds taking the snaps and he had 113 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
▶ Reese Childress had his biggest receiving output of the season with 160 yards on seven catches. He also added a touchdown. Matthew Sandoval had three catches for 73 yards and scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the game.
▶ HSU's defense held down the pass-happy Tigers. ETBU completed 19-of-32 passes but most were for short yardage. The Cowboys had four sacks and intercepted Brian Baca three times.
▶ The defense held its fourth straight opponent under 400 yards of total offense. HSU has allowed less than 400 yards to 14 of its last 15 opponents. The only team to break that streak was East Texas Baptist who had 656 in a crazy 80-42 game in Marshall in 2017.
▶ Ty Hooper was solid under center going 15-of-24 for 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
▶ The Cowboys averaged 9.0 yards per play against East Texas Baptist and limited the Tigers to 4.4 yards per play. ETBU ran 50 running plays in the game for just a 3.3 yards per carry average.
▶ HSU had 11 tackles for loss in the game against ETBU, including four sacks.
▶ HSU leads the nation in third-down conversion at almost 61 percent on the year. HSU is 14-for-14 on the year in third-down situations of three yards or less. The Cowboys are 0-for-8 on third downs of 10 yards or more. The key to that has been early down success, the Cowboys are averaging 9.0 yards per carry on first down.
▶ Senior Ty Hooper has completed 71 percent of his passes on the season and has four touchdowns and three interceptions. He is now 5-1 in his career as a starter.
▶ Matthew Sandoval has done a good job of stretching the field. He is averaging 20.8 yards per catch on the year.
▶ HSU leads the nation in total offense at 633.3 yards per game and are third in scoring at 55.8 points per contest. UMHB leads the nation in scoring at 70.8 points per game.
▶ The Cowboys re averaging 386 yards a game on the ground, which ranks second nationally. HSU is averaging 8.2 yards per carry on the season.
▶ Senior left tackle Patrick Riley has been named a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy given to the top senior student-athlete in the nation. He was one of 179 players named. The list will be narrowed to 12-14 in October.
▶ The Cowboys have allowed just 292.3 yards per game, which ranks 52nd nationally.
▶ Nine different players have recorded at least a 1/2 sack this year and seven of them have been defensive linemen.
▶ Zac Richardson got his first interception of the year. It was his first pick since the very first game of his career in 2015 against Southwestern.
▶ HSU had three interceptions against East Texas Baptist. Dedrick Strambler had the first one and was running in for a touchdown when he lost the ball at the 2-yard line. ETBU recovered. Two plays later, Blake Johnston had a pick six. Richardson got his pick as ETBU was driving just prior to halftime.
Special Teams Notes
▶ Jamie Pogue was 8-for-8 on PATs and kicked a career-best 40-yard field goal in the game. The 40-yarder was the longest by a Cowboy kicker since Scott Newberry hit a 50-yarder against UMHB in 2012.
▶ Trey Proffitt had his best day kicking off as he recorded five touchbacks on 10 kickoffs in the game.
▶ Reese Childress had a 40-yard punt return against ETBU. He is averaging 19.1 yards per punt return on the season. Childress also put both of his punts inside the 20. Childress has only had to punt six times in the first four games, but three have been fair caught and four of the six have been inside the 20. Opponents only have eight punt return yards on the year.
▶ ETBU made a field goal on Saturday marking the first make for an opponent in five tries this season.
▶ The Cru is off to another great start to the season as they average 70.8 points per game and are allowing just 8.8 per contest.
▶ UMHB has scored more non-offensive touchdowns this season (7) than it has allowed on defense (5).
▶ The Cru have averaged 6.6 yards per carry and three running backs have shared the load. Markeith Miller has 399 yards, nine touchdowns and 6.7 yards per carry. Marquis Duncan has 202 yards, five touchdowns and 7.2 yards per carry and Olan Vining has 201 yards and 7.2 yards per carry.
▶ The Cru have used a pair of quarterbacks. McMurry and ACU transfer Jase Hammack has completed 50-of-80 passes for 821 yards and seven TDs and Mount Union transfer Luke Poorman has thrown for 200 yards and two scores. DeNerian Thomas had four touchdown passes on five completions as a Wildcat quarterback. He has also rushed for three touchdowns and 8.1 yards per carry.
▶ The Cru has seven different receivers that have caught touchdowns. T.J. Josey has 229 yards on 13 catches with four scores. K.J. Miller has 16 catches for 249 yards and a touchdown.
▶ K.J. Miller is averaging 47.6 yards on seven punt returns with a pair of scores. The Cru averages 38.6 yards per return on punts.
▶ UMHB has attempted 10 field goals on the year and three different kickers have makes.
▶ The defense has 37 tackles for loss, nine sacks and nine interceptions. They have forced 16 turnovers on the year.
Last Year In ABILENE
▶ It was a defensive battle in Abilene with the Cru winning 17-7. The Cru had 270 yards and the Cowboys had just 191 yards.
▶ The Cowboys had a long run negated on the first drive by a penalty and the Cru ended up with a Kris Brown 64-yard pick six to start the game.
▶ Markeith Miller had 168 yards rushing for the Cru.
▶ UMHB had eight sacks and forced four Cowboy turnovers, including three interceptions. The Cowboys had five sacks in the game, including two by Donavon Hailey.
▶ HSU will return home next week to play Sul Ross State for homecoming. It will be the first night game of the year.
▶ HSU is 38-1 all-time under Burleson when scoring 40 or more points and 25-1 when the opponent scores less than 20 points. The Cowboys are also 43-7 all-time under Burleson when scoring first.
▶ The Cowboys have scored plenty on offense in the Burleson era, but they have also found ways to score in other areas of the game. The Cowboys have 41 non-offensive touchdowns. HSU had as many as nine in the 2015 season. This year Rae Millsap has a 91-yard kickoff, Reese Childress has a 60-yard punt return and Blake Johnston has a 16-yard interception return.
▶ The future is bright. Under head coach Jesse Burleson the Cowboys have made a concentrated effort in recruiting bringing in players that fit their style and schemes and also have made recruiting the Big Country a priority. Both have paid dividends and the program is loaded with depth all through the system. The developmental squad is 3-0 and several of the freshmen have worked their way into Saturday roles.
▶ HSU has scored a touchdown in 256 straight games dating back to a 10-0 loss to Westminster (Pa.) in the 1993 NAIA Semifinals. HSU has scored in double figures in all but seven of those 256 games and has averaged 38.4 points per game.
Head Coach Jesse Burleson
Head coach Jesse Burleson is starting his eighth season at the helm of the Cowboys. He has a career record of 53-23 and has led the Cowboys to three straight trips to the NCAA playoffs. He has produced a 14 All-Americans as the head coach and last year Vic Rodriguez was named the Rimington Award recipient as the top center in Division III. Burleson also coaches the offensive line.