Defending national champion University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, the No. 1-ranked team in the country, played like its ranking Nov. 18 in the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship. Chapman’s historically potent offense was unable to score a point until the final play of the game, losing 50-6.
Following the playoff draw Nov. 12, senior defensive lineman Adam O’Shea said Mary Hardin-Baylor would likely write off Chapman, which would be a mistake.
“I think when Mary Hardin-Baylor looks at this bracket right now, they basically already see themselves in the second round,” O’Shea said.
An early interception by senior defensive back Chris Williams on the first possession of the game was one of the only bright spots for Chapman. The Panthers shut down Mary Hardin-Baylor on its first two possessions, but were unable to capitalize offensively.
Chapman had an extra week off before the game because Occidental College forfeited its season. Chapman was scheduled to play Occidental Nov. 11. Head coach Bob Owens said before the game, he wondered what impact that would have.
“It’s hard to say whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Owens said. “It’s certainly going to help us in terms of just healing up. But I think in terms of sharpness, it’s always better to play.”
After falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter, Chapman picked up its first two first downs, excluding an earlier first down from a penalty for roughing the passer. The next four plays put a dent into any hope of a comeback, and summed up the afternoon’s offensive struggle.
On first down, senior quarterback Ricky Bautista was tackled for a loss of five yards, recovering his own fumble. Senior running back Joe Mudie was brought down in the backfield for a loss of five yards on the next play.
On third down, Bautista was sacked for a loss of seven yards, forcing Chapman to punt on fourth down and 34. The snap was wayward, skipping into Chapman’s end zone and leaving sophomore punter Elias Deeb to kick the ball through the back of the end zone for a safety, putting Mary Hardin-Baylor up 16-0 and giving them possession.
Before the game, Owens said Mary Hardin-Baylor had no weaknesses.
“They’re a solid football program,” Owens said. “In every aspect of who they are offensively, defensively, they’ve been a solid football program this year. They are a big football team. They have a lot of speed.”
Bautista and senior wide receiver Jacob Isabel, who set single-season records for passing and receiving touchdowns, were largely shut down by Mary Hardin-Baylor until the fourth quarter. Before Chapman’s final drive, Bautista, who was averaging 272.4 passing yards per game prior to the Nov. 18 game, had 152 passing yards, and Isabel, who averaged 120.6 receiving yards per game prior to the game, had 65 receiving yards.
Bautista racked up 55 passing yards on the final drive and Isabel caught a 20-yard pass, which led up to Chapman’s final play of the game, a consolation touchdown. Junior wide receiver Trevor Vill took the ball away from a Mary Hardin-Baylor defender in the air and the referees awarded Chapman the touchdown and its only points of the game.
Before the game, Owens said he was proud of his team for what it had accomplished during the regular season.
“At the beginning of the season, we were picked fourth (in the SCIAC coaches’ preseason poll),” Owens said. “We acknowledged that we were a young football team with some great senior leadership – but this is a very young football team.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the berth by which Chapman fell behind in the first quarter. It was 7-0, not 14-0. This information has been corrected. An earlier version of this story also stated that Chapman declined to kick the final extra point, which was incorrect. This information has been corrected.