Michael Miller of the Temple Daily Telegram for the News-Register ##
Linfield defenders Jake Reimer (35) and Duke Mackle (18) team up to bring down UMHB s Markeith Miller during the second round contest in Belton, Texas.
Michael Miller of the Temple Daily Telegram for the News-Register ## Linfield defenders Jake Reimer (35) and Duke Mackle (18) team up to bring down UMHB's Markeith Miller during the second round contest in Belton, Texas.
By Rusty Rae • Sport Editor • 

Linfield falls to UMHB, 24-0, to end season

BELTON, TEXAS -- Linfield had few answers for the number-one ranked and defending national champion University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders, falling in the second round of the NCAA division III playoffs, 24-0.

From the opening series, little went right for the Wildcats. Stopped on a third and one, the punt by Colton Ramos was blocked and the Crusaders started their first drive on the 'Cat 15-yard line. Even a strong defensive effort by Linfield went awry as the defense, aided by a penalty, pushed the Crusaders into a second and 17 scenario.

But the home team sprung Bryce Wilkerson on a reverse for the 17 yards and a 7-0 lead at the 12:08 mark of the first quarter. 

The Linfield defense played with verve and effectiveness through the rest of the first quarter, blunting the Crusader offense. UMHB's John Mowery missed a field goal at the 6:12 mark of the first stanza, but the 'Cat offense could do little to help their cause in the first half. 

In the second quarter, the Crusaders were able to find creases in the Wildcat defense to score 10 points. UMHB's freshman quarterback, Carl Robinson, found daylight, sprinting 36 yards for the second score of the contest, and a 14-0 lead at the 11:13 mark on the second quarter.

The 'Cats blunted a late Mary Hardin-Baylor attack, forcing a 25-yard Mowery field goal at the 4:03 mark of the second quarter. The half ended with the Crusaders leading 17-0.

The Wildcats came out in the second half with renewed energy. Linfield stopped the Crusaders' opening drive and finally found offensive rhythm, driving 77 yards to the Crusaders' one-yard line. A fourth-and-four attempt found QB Aiden Wilder short of the goal by a yard.

UMHB then put together an impressive 99-yard drive, with Robinson throwing a picture-perfect 32-yard strike to Jonel Reid. That pushed the score to its final margin, 24-0, at the 1:54 mark of the third quarter.

Linfield drove to the UMHB 18 on its next possession, but Wyatt Smith was intercepted, killing that drive.

The 'Cats would reach UMHB territory twice more before the end of the game, but each time turned the ball over on downs. The last series seeing Smith sacked for a 10-yard loss, on a third-and-six attempt with 3:26 left in the game.

UMHB efficiently ran out the clock, driving to the Linfield 21-yard line before taking a knee on the final play of the game.

Smith finished the game 20-31-1 for 182 yards. Chidubem Nnoli churned for 37 yard on 19 carries. The 'Cats were held to 220-yards of total offense. UMHB rolled to 378 yards of total offense. 

Saturday's defeat marked the Wildcats' first shutout in 16 years (vs.Southern Oregon in 2001) and was Linfield's first playoff game in 26 years (vs. Pacific Lutheran in 1991) in which it did not produce points. The Crusaders' last loss was to Linfield in the 2015 NCAA quarterfinals.

Linfield finishes the season 9-2, losing twice to University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

UMHB will host St. Thomas in the quarterfinals next weekend in Belton.

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