The Berry Vikings cruised to a victory in their opening round matchup against Maryville College, 31-0. Their reward, a trip to Texas to face No. 1 seeded Mary Hardin-Baylor. The Crusaders enter this week’s game defeating Hardin-Simmons 27-6.
The Crusaders present a strong challenge for the three-time SAA champs. The Crusaders are favored heavily, with all the experts picking UMHB to steamroll the Vikings. UMHB boasts one of the top offenses in the country, averaging 59.6 points per game. The vaunted defense of the Crusaders has only allowed a measly 6.4 points per game. If the Vikings seek to pull off a historic upset, they will have to play an almost perfect game in all three phases. We are going to look at three keys for the Vikings to pull off the upset on Saturday
Last week, Heath Burchfield started in place of the injured Tate Adcock. It remains to be seen if the Adcock will be healthy enough to get the start. Burchfield played well and did a great job of managing the game. Burchfield finished the game throwing for 216 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback play will be a huge key if the Vikings wish to pull of the upset. Whether Adcock or Burchfield are under center, big plays need to be made. The running game for the Vikings is the strong suit. Joey Connors and CJ Stone have combined for dynamic backfield duo, but you know the Crusaders will force the Vikings quarterback to beat them. A big day for either of those quarterbacks will help balance out this offensive attack and keep the Crusaders on their toes.
Mary Hardin-Baylor is going to move the ball, it would be foolish to think that the Vikings would be able to pitch a shutout. The Crusaders offense will gain yards, there is no debating that. The Vikings defense led by Bryson Lamboy and Kevin Grier have forced 28 turnovers this season. The veteran defense for the Vikings will need to force a turnover or two in order to really attempt to take command. If the offense is struggling, a key interception or fumble could change the momentum of the entire game. Senior defensive back Derrell Mims is a player to watch. Mims has game changing talent and has a ball-hawk mentality in the Vikings secondary.
Special teams can sometimes often be overlooked. Last week, punter Will Kenworthy was a huge factor in slowing down the Maryville Scots offense. Kenworthy had 4 punts inside the 15-yard line, pinning the Scots deep inside their own territory. This made it even harder for the Scots offense to move the ball against the Viking’s defense. Punt returner Derrell Mims will be huge in this game. Mims already has one return for a touchdown this season and was robbed of one after a questionable penalty in last week’s game. Mims has blazing speed and is very elusive. If the senior can evade tacklers and get consistent returns, it would help this Vikings defense tremendously.
It will be an uphill battle for the Vikings in their quest to reach the next round. UMHB presents a very tough challenge for the Vikings as the No. 2 ranked team in the country. The Vikings and Crusaders will kickoff around 1 PM EST.