(Story courtesy of Trinity University)
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - In its first NCAA Division III Playoff game in four years, the Trinity University football team lost 25-16 in a first round game against McMurry University.
Trinity (10-1) finishes its season after qualifying for the NCAA Playoffs for the 12th time in school history, winning the SCAC Championship for the first time since 2007. It was also the first home playoff game for the Tigers since 2005.
McMurry (9-2), competing in its first Division III Football
Tournament, will take on Mary Hardin-Baylor next Saturday in the
second round. Mary Hardin-Baylor, which beat McMurry 28-27 in
September, is the American Southwest Conference champion, and the
War Hawks were runners-up.
"The game was like two prize fighters punching it out," said McMurry coach Hal Mumme. "I thought our defensive front played like gang-busters, and our secondary made a lot of plays. Trinity has a great defense, and made a lot of plays at just shutting us down at times."
The Tigers scored first on Saturday, as Matthew Kennemer snagged an 8-yard TD pass from Nyk McKissic, with nine minutes remaining in the opening period. McMurry quarterback Stephen Warren evened the score at 7-7 - which would hold throughout the first half - on a one-yard run with six minutes left in the second quarter.
The first half was a defensive battle throughout, as McMurry racked up 204 total yards (48 rushing and 156 passing) in the half, while Trinity chalked up 167 total yards (33 rushing, 134 passing).
McMurry's Jessie Garcia started things off in the third period with a 27-yard field goal, followed quickly by a one-yard TD pass to Delfonte Diamond by Warren - followed by a two-point conversion run by the quarterback - putting the War Hawks ahead 18-7.
Trinity then got going in the second half, scoring nine unanswered points to make it 18-16 McMurry in the fourth quarter. Garrett Biel started things off with a 38-yard field goal in the third quarter's final minute. In the fourth, Antonio Debouse recovered a McMurry fumble and raced 37 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion play failed, leaving McMurry in the lead.
Minutes later, McMurry's D.J. Baiza returned a Trinity punt 52 yards for a touchdown that effectively sealed the win for the War Hawks.
McKissic completed 15-36 passes for 260 yards, but also threw four interceptions - including one to Kerry Gamble on the first play of the second half, setting up the field goal by Garcia.
"Our coaches at halftime had made a great game plan," said Gamble, who had five tackles, including 1.5 for a loss. The coaches said, 'just have a feel for it. When you see it, just jump at it and react.' "
Warren completed 17-34 passes (two interceptions) for 188 yards for the War Hawks.
Trinity's Hagen Kattner snagged five passes for 95 yards, and Kennemer had four catches for 46 yards, to go with his touchdown play. Simeon Neal of McMurry caught five passes for 99 yards, and Diamond had four for 44 yards.
McKissic paced Trinity's running game with 10 carries for 24 yards, and Patrick Granchelli had 10 attempts for 21 yards. Justin Johnson of McMurry led the ground game, with 24 rushes and 64 yards.
Defensively, Trinity's Ben Robinson led the game with 14 tackles (one solo), and produced a sack, 2.5 tackles for a loss, forced a fumble, broke up a pass, and had two quarterback hurries.Tom Puskarich added 12 tackles (one solo), and a tackle for a loss.
A solid defensive performer all year for the Tigers has been Tyler Barrett, who had four tackles, one pass breakup, and made one of two Trinity interceptions - his eighth of the season.
"There were a lot of turnovers," said Barrett. "Their punt return was an important play. But you always have to believe you can come back."
Each team committed five turnovers in the game. McMurry had two interceptions and lost three fumbles. Trinity had four interceptions and one lost fumble.
Will Morris of McMurry recorded 10 tackles (five solo), and made an interception. Jimmy Terrell, who had three pass breakups, and Nick Hernandez, each accounted for eight tackles.
Trinity amassed 304 total yards (44 yards rushing, 260 passing), and McMurry put up 271 (83 rushing, 188 passing).
In spite of the loss, Tiger head coach Steve Mohr was pleased with his team's performance during the season.
"It was disappointing we ended it this way," Mohr said. "I thought we played pretty hard at times, but we made some key mistakes, especially in the third quarter. I thought to go undefeated (during the regular season) was a tribute to our seniors. I think that is what they will take away from this season overall."