The No. 14 University of Redlands football team's playoff dreams came to an abrupt end on Saturday in Belton, TX, as the third-ranked University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (TX) ousted the Bulldogs in first-round action of the NCAA Division III Championships. The Crusaders rattled off 34 unanswered points in the first three quarters before Redlands put up 13 points in the final frame.
The run-heavy Crusaders racked up 336 yards on the ground, including 50 on scoring carries. But they proved that the other facets of their game were just as solid, scoring on a 27-yard pass as well as a career-best 50-yard field goal by Chad Peevey. Peevey later split the uprights on a 44-yard strike for the Crusaders' final score of the game with 8:06 remaining in the third.
Redlands' offense struggled to find its rhythm, knocking on the red zone only once before finally penetrating the goal line on two occasions in the waning minutes of action.
With less than 10 minutes to go in the fourth, the Bulldog defense forced UMHB to punt after the Crusaders failed on a third-and-three attempt. Redlands proceeded to move the sticks for five first downs and the score, covering 96 yards on 10 plays. Junior running back Brad Crisanty (Granite Bay, CA) and junior quarterback Chad Hurst (Dixon, CA) put together a combined 59 yards on the ground, highlighted by Hurst's 36-yard scamper on second and 10. He later found senior wide receiver Mark Richardson II (Los Angeles, CA) for 14 yards before hitting Crisanty on a 22-yard strike for the touchdown.
The ensuing Crusader drive was cut short when senior defensive back Richard Dye II (Sacramento, CA) nabbed his third interception of the season on a gutsy fourth-and-12 play by UMHB.
Beginning on their own 15-yard line, the Bulldogs mustered one final score on an 85-yard bomb to Richardson with 1:33 left in the game.
Striving for another late-game comeback, Redlands attempted the onside kick but failed to regain possession, leading to the final ticks of the clock.
Hurst racked up 244 yards on a 16-for-35 performance. He found Richardson for a game-high 125 yards on four catches. Crisanty provided 56 yards on the ground and 22 yards through the air.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were tested by the powerful and versatile running game of the Crusaders that included 10 different ball-carriers. Junior linebacker Justin Butler (Poway, CA) led the effort with a season-high 16 hits, including 11 of the solo variety. In addition, he stepped up with two tackles for a loss of 12 yards. Senior linebacker Tony Santini (San Jose, CA) and junior linebacker Jordan Garcia (Carlsbad, CA) also broke the double-digit barrier with 13 and 10 tackles, respectively.
After advancing to the NCAA Championships for the sixth time in school history, Redlands wraps up the 2011 season with an 8-2 overall record. The team finished second in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) with a 5-1 mark.
The Crusaders (11-0) welcome McMurry University (TX) for a 12 noon kickoff in Saturday's second-round game. McMurry defeated Trinity University (TX) by a score of 25-16 in the program's first-ever playoff victory.