As the nation’s second best NCAA Division III team, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, came to Trinity last weekend, fans packed the seating in support of the Tigers. An early lead by UMHB put the Crusaders in the front seat to give the Tigers their second loss. The 49-28 loss puts Trinity 2-2 for the season.
“Looking at the level of competition coming in, we knew we had to play our best game and at the end of the day we didn’t on either side of the ball,” said assistant coach Kyle Coats. “The good thing I kind of took away from it is that our kids are still fighting.”
UMHB got a head start in the first quarter with 21 points before Trinity could put up seven. In the second quarter, UMHB doubled their score to go into halftime 42-7. Though the Tigers had hard drives, they were plagued by turnovers that UMHB capitalized on.
“They came out, and they obviously were a pretty good team,” Coats said. “It was a battle at first; our guys were ready and they seemed prepared. They kind of took the wind out of our sails on that first drive I feel like. They pushed down, scored first and got us kind of on our heels on defense, and that’s kind of where we were trying to recover after that first drive.”
At halftime, the Tigers upped their energy and won the second half 21-7. The Tigers scored in the third and then twice more at the end of the game to prove that they hadn’t given up. Unfortunately, the early lead in the first half gave UMHB the momentum to propel them for the whole game.
“The second half we came out and we were a lot more focused and we came out and played a lot better as a team,” said junior defensive back Zach Wright. “As you can see from the scoreboard we didn’t catch up, but we did outscore them in the second half. You just can’t let the number two team in the nation get that big of a head start.”
Offensively, junior wide receiver Hagen Kattner led all receivers with a touchdown on five receptions and a total of 119 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Matthew Kennemer had 52 yards on five receptions and returned five kickoffs for 126 yards. Senior quarterback Nyk McKissic completed 17-29 passes and was responsible for 178 yards and a touchdown. Senior running back Patrick Granchelli had 49 yards rushing and 38 yards receiving on three catches. The Tigers had a total of 374 yards of offense on UMHB. Trinity’s offense has had the best rushing success against the second-ranked team this season.
“I was really impressed with the offense we had,” Kattner said. “We had almost 400 yards of offense on the number two-ranked team in the nation. That’s impressive to me and makes me feel like we can hang with any team in the nation, and that makes us one of the best offenses in the nation.”
On the defensive side, senior linebacker Thomas Puskarich collected 11 tackles, while sophomore defensive back J.P. Sanchez and Wright each had seven stops for the Tigers. Sophomore defensive lineman Tomy Boboy had a sack and first-year defensive back Jamal Murray had a 56-yard interception return for a Trinity touchdown.
“We had a lot of guys working hard out there trying to do their jobs,” Coats said. “However, some guys were trying to cover up for some areas where we weren’t making plays, so that guy’s out of position. At the end of the day if we all do our jobs we play better defense, rather than people trying to cover up for one another. There were a lot of guys in position to make plays and then just not making them.”
Despite the loss, the in-state powerhouse prepares the Tigers for potential playoff competition.
“It was disappointing just because of the potential,” Wright said. “If we would have won it would’ve jumped us up in the ranking into the top 25, but I just think we need to get beyond the loss and look forward to winning the rest of the games so we can have a chance at the playoffs. Because you never know, we could play them again in the playoffs.”
With more than half the regular season still remaining, the Tigers are turning the season back around to how they started.
“The way we bounced back from the first half definitely shows that nobody is going to give up,” Kattner said. “We’re still going to keep fighting and we’re still going to keep playing as hard as the first two games when we were blowing teams out. We’re not ever going to quit.”
The Tigers face off against Rhodes at 6 p.m. tomorrow at home.