UW-Whitewater’s run game struggled as their National Championship hopes were dashed at home on Saturday afternoon. The Warhawks only managed 64 rushing yards including 43 from senior Alex Peete in a 24-7 loss to Mary-Hardin Baylor in the Division 3 National Semifinal.
“Offensively, we felt confident about what we needed to do,” UW-Whitewater head coach Kevin Bullis said. “In the end, we didn’t consistently put drives together like we have all season.”
After four straight punts to start the game, Mary-Hardin Baylor was first on the board as quarterback Kyle King connected on a 9-yard touchdown pass with Brandon Jordan to grab a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. After an interception of quarterback Max Meylor, the Crusaders added on a second nine-yard touchdown pass to Jordan to increase the lead to 14-0.
“Ultimately, their ability to throw the ball on us defensively was the difference in the game,” Bullis said. “We felt good about defending the run and get some pressure, but what they were able to do with getting some quick passes to get him (Jordan) the ball and up high. He did a really good job.”
After a Whitewater punt, Mary Hardin-Baylor added on a 44-yard field goal from Anthony Avila to make it a 17-0 game. On their last possession of the first half, Meylor connected with junior receiver Tyler Holte four times including a nine-yard touchdown pass as the Warhawks trailed 17-7 at the break.
After forcing another punt, Mary Hardin-Baylor added on their final score of the game as they ended an 11-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run from Kenneth Cormier to make it 24-7. Both teams missed field goals in the fourth quarter as Matt Maldonado missed from 37-yards, while Avila had a 21-yard field goal blocked by Mackenzie Balanganayi.
Meylor went 23-for-32 for 207 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while junior Tyler Holte had the big receiving day for the Warhawks with six catches for 91 yards. Senior Mark McGrath led the team in tackles with 10, while Shane McGrail had eight.
King threw for 248 yards for Mary Hardin-Baylor on 19-for-28 passing. Brandon Jordan had 11 catches for 164 yards, while Aphonso Thomas led the Crusaders’ rushing attack with 84 yards rushing.
With the win, Mary Hardin-Baylor advances to Friday’s National Championship game. The Crusaders will play 2019 National Champion North Central College at 6 p.m.