Belton, Tex. – The University of Redlands football team ended its season on Saturday with a 50-28 loss to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in the First Round of the 2016 NCAA Division III National Championships. In a tale of two halves, the Bulldogs finish 8-2 on the season after a perfect 7-0 conference record this season.
Redlands led 14-7 after a quarter taking the opening drive of the game 81 yards for a score. The drive was kept alive as with a 21-yard pass from Stephen Rodriguez to Blake Roy on a fake punt. Conner Kennedy scored on a five-yard run to make it 7-0 with 9:17 left in the first quarter. The Bulldogs intercepted a pass three plays later to set up Mitch Kidd's six-yard TD strike to Christian Guzman to make it 14-0 Redlands with 5:35 left in the opening period.
Markeith Miller's three-yard scoring plunge finally put the Crusaders on the board with 2:38 remaining in the first. Aaron Mandell scooped up a Blake Jackson fumble and raced 40 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 21-7 lead before Jackson found Bryce Wilkerson with a 57-yard scoring pass to close the gap to seven going into halftime.
Redlands up 21-14 at the break held UMHB on the opening drive of the second half. The Bulldogs were forced to punt from deep in their own territory and a fumbled snap led to a Crusader safety to cut the Bulldogs lead to five, 21-16. UMHB added a 38-yard touchdown pass from Blake Jackson to T.J. Josey. Josey on the ensuing possession gave UMHB its first lead of the game at 23-21.
Jackson's six-yard scoring run on the next drive stretched the score 30-21, but Redlands' Kyle Kabeary returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a score to close the gap to 30-28. Markeith Miller capped the next Crusader drive with a 19-yard touchdown run to make it 37-28. The Bulldogs had a chance to close the gap, but UMHB stuffed a fake field goal try to maintain a nine-point edge. The Crusaders added Jackson's six-yard scoring pass to Bryce Wilkerson and Miller's 15-yard scoring run to close it out in the fourth quarter.
Redlands managed just 34 rushing yards and 150 passing yards for 184 yards of total offense. UMHB finished with 595 yards of total offense and rolled up 356 of those on the ground. Mitch Kidd was 14-26 passing for 119 yards and a touchdown for the Bulldogs. Christian Guzman caught five passes for 45 yards and a score. Conner Kennedy ran for 25 yards and a touchdown. Dustin Nascimento posted a game-high 15 tackles and Brian Keyser added 13 more.
With the win, UMHB advances to face Linfield College (9-1) in the Second Round next Saturday. The site for that game will be announced on Sunday. The Wildcats advanced with a 24-10 victory at Hardin-Simmons University in the opening round. UMHB and Linfield will be meeting for the second time this season and for the fifth time in the NCAA postseason.
Photo credit Charles Blackburn for University of Redlands