BELTON, TEXAS – St. Thomas came up with a strong defensive effort against the defending NCAA Division III champion on Saturday.
But Mary Hardin-Baylor scored on a punt return and an interception return 80 seconds apart early in the fourth quarter to pull out a 24-10 victory over the Tommies in the national quarterfinals.
The Crusaders (13-0) stopped the Tommies twice in the final 10 minutes to secure their 28th consecutive victory — the longest active winning streak in college football.
St. Thomas (11-2) drove to the Crusaders 10-yard with two minutes to play, but the Crusaders got a sack on fourth down to take over with 2:38 remaining.
After a scoreless first quarter, the first half ended in a 10-10 tie.
After the Crusaders had taken a 7-0 lead, the Tommies responded with a 26-yard TD pass from Jacques Perra to Jackson Hull.
John Mowery's 26-yard field gave the Crusaders a 10-7 lead, but the Tommies' Bryan Steinsapir kicked a 49-yard field on the final play of the half.
Bryce Wilkerson's 67-yard punt return with 11:22 remaining in the fourth quarter gave the Crusaders the lead for good. Less than two minutes later, Kris Brown's 33-yard interception return made it 23-10.
The Tommies limited the Crusaders to nine first downs and 143 yards in offense. The Tommies held the Crusaders to minus-16 yards rushing.
Perra passed for 190 yards and Josh Parks rushed for 68 yards for the Tommies, who had 252 yards and 13 first downs.