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No. 5/6 Football Minimizes Majors, 53-7, to Clinch SAA Berth into NCAA III Playoffs

No. 5/6 Football Minimizes Majors, 53-7, to Clinch SAA Berth into NCAA III Playoffs

JACKSON, Miss. – No. 5/6 Trinity University Football clinched a share of the 2022 Southern Athletic Association title, and the SAA's automatic-qualifying bid into the NCAA III Football Championship field, with a 53-7 thrashing of Millsaps College on the road Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers (9-0, 6-0 SAA) logged multiple chunk plays through the air on the Majors (3-6, 2-4 SAA) throughout the contest which led to a combined line of 27-for-44, 358 yards and four touchdowns, all to different receivers. Three Trinity quarterbacks split that passing line led by senior Tucker Horn (Graham, Texas / Graham) who accounted for 191 yards and two scores, all of which in the first half.

The Trinity defense collected its fourth game allowing less than 200 yards this season with just 159 yards ceded to the Majors Saturday, the fifth contest of the season allowing 60 yards or less on the ground and the second allowing less than 100 passing yards. The Tigers posted the first four-takeaway game of the season through a fumble late in the second quarter, followed by three third-quarter interceptions including one returned for 39 yards by junior cornerback Trey King (Round Rock, Texas / Round Rock).

With the game under control throughout the afternoon, Trinity logged its second-highest rushing total this season at 170 yards, the third 150-plus yard performance of the season. Junior Winston Hutchison (Round Rock, Texas / McNeil) led the way with 72 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown while classmate Legend Grigsby (Houston, Texas / Cypress Creek) found the endzone twice on six carries for 32 yards.

Senior wide receiver Ethan Boyer (Greenville, N.C. / J.H. Rose) posted a career-high 82 yards on three catches, including a 40-yard touchdown, to lead the receiving corps. Fellow senior Caleb Crawford (Houston, Texas / Strake Jesuit) led the first-half production with his 72 yards on three receptions.

No. 5/6 Trinity Football returns to San Antonio to host University of the South for the regular-season and SAA finale, November 12.

The Rundown

The Tigers and Majors each traded opening-drive punts after Trinity received the opening kickoff. Almost five minutes were burned from the first quarter by the time the Trinity defense collected its first three-and-out of the contest, which featured the first tackle for loss by Charles Gilbert (Chandler, Ariz. / Basha).

The Horn-to-Crawford connection began on the second play of the next drive as the first chunk-gain between the duo collected 28 yards to get well into Millsaps territory. A second 20-plus yard gain through the air to Carter Self (N. Richland Hills, Texas / Birdville) put the Tigers on the five yardline, setting up back-to-back carries for Grigsby to punch it in.

The Majors made a brief appearance in plus-territory after a 20-yard catch of their own on the next drive but the combined pass rush of Isaac Agumadu (Dallas, Texas / Trinity Christian) and Mac Douglas (Fairhope, Ala. / Bayside) hurried the third-down pass and put a stop to the Millsaps possession just three yards ahead of the 50 yardline.

After collecting one first down after the Majors' punt, Horn found Crawford again for and 18-yard gain toward midfield. A 12-yard catch on an out route to BJ Stewart (Shreveport, La. / Woodlawn) put the Tigers to the Millsaps 39 yardline just before the quarter break, setting up another big play on the Horn-to-Crawford script, this time a 26-yard grab for goal-to-go. Stewart finished the drive on third-and-goal for Horn's first touchdown strike, 14-0 Trinity early in the second.

Trinity's defense notched the first turnover of the game on the ensuing drive as a mob of Tigers stood up the scrambling Millsaps quarterback near midfield. Grigsby and Justin Carmouche (Cypress, Texas / Cy-Ranch) combined for 26 yards on the ground to set up a Blake Lin (Tyler, Texas / All Saints) 26-yard chip-shot field goal, 17-0 Trinity. Horn nearly had Merrifield at the goal line with a back-shoulder ball two plays prior on a short comeback route to the right pylon.

Another quick first-down 20-yard pass for Millsaps broke up what was otherwise another three-and-out, but a great punt for the Majors put the Tigers on their own nine yardline for the next drive.

The Horn-to-Crawford connection nearly resulted in a 70-plus yard touchdown but the Majors secondary got just enough of the streaking receiver to prevent the completion in favor of the 15-yard defensive pass interference penalty. Instead, Horn found Stewart again for a 30-yard strike into Millsaps territory. After another pass interference penalty on the Majors, this time in the endzone, Horn found Bayler Jordan (Buda, Texas / Hays) in the flat to the right, 24-0 Trinity.

The next kickoff left Millsaps to start its drive on its own seven yardline. A second tackle-for-loss for Gilbert set up a safety for the Tigers, collected by Douglas, as the Majors could not get a push in the trenches to get away from their own goal line.

Millsaps did get one attempt in the red zone before half as the Major defense evened the turnover margin with an interception on the first play of the next Trinity drive. After a pass interference penalty on the Tigers put Millsaps in goal-to-go territory, the Trinity defense held with three straight incomplete passes, one broken up by Quinn McDermott (Fairview, Texas / Lovejoy), which led to a 14-yard tackle for loss on fourth down by Ezra Gore (McKinney, Texas / North) to preserve the shutout, 26-0 Trinity, going into the half.

The Tiger defense improved to four-straight games with an interception on the second-half Millsaps opening-drive as King returned a L.J. Leonard pass 39 yards into Millsaps territory. While the offense stalled on a fourth down in plus-territory, the defense again gifted the offense a start in Majors territory as Caleb Harmel (Burton, Texas / Burton) snagged a short attempt over the middle of the field and brought it back to the Millsaps 28 yardline.

Ryan Back (Austin, Texas / Vandegrift) took the helm of the offense with well-over 20 minutes remaining in the contest and produced yet another chunk-play through the air to immediately put the Tigers near goal line. The sophomore found Boyer for a 30-yard gain to get to the Majors' two yardline, setting up Grigsby to punch in his second touchdown, eighth of the 2022 season, 32-0 Trinity after just the second missed extra-point on the season in over 40 attempts from Lin.

Following another three-and-out forced by the Tigers, Back found Carmouche for a first down, then drew a holding call followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the Millsaps secondary to reach plus-territory once again. A first-down carry for Hutchison put Trinity on the board again from 10 yards out, 39-0 Trinity.

Just before the end of the third, the second unit of the Tiger defense kept pace as TJ Scannell (San Antonio, Texas / Reagan) showed quick hands on a laser over the middle for the third Trinity interception of the quarter. Back cashed in on another plus-territory start on the other side of the quarter break with a touchdown strike to Cole Monago (Houston, Texas / Klein Cain) from just inside the red zone, 46-0 Trinity.

Back collected a second touchdown in response to the lone Millsaps score just-under the 10-minute mark as he found Boyer all alone down the middle of the field for a 40-yard score to get over the 50-mark on the day, 53-7 Trinity.

Notable Numbers

Two more passing touchdowns on the day for Tucker Horn puts the quarterback just one more score through the air away from tying Dan DesPlaines (2001-04) at for third all-time at Trinity with 60 scores in his career.

With his pair of scores Saturday, Grigsby is just one more touchdown away from landing in a multi-way tie for the ninth-best season for rushing scores in Trinity history (9). A second score would put him squarely in the top-ten all-time in what would be a four-way tie for sixth.

The Trinity defense collected three interceptions for the first time since twice achieving the feat in the 2019 campaign, last at Rhodes College in the 2019 finale, though all three picks in Jackson on Saturday were collected in the third quarter alone. The four takeaways for the Tigers was the first time since turning over Birmingham-Southern College five times in the final week of the 2021 spring season.

The 40-yard fourth-quarter score by Boyer represented the longest play of the senior's career, and the longest touchdown pass of Back's career, and second-longest completion behind a 65-yard strike to Self at Sewanee last season.

The Tiger offense collected its first 500-plus yard performance since the season-opening 55-7 victory over Sul Ross State University and the third 50-plus point output this season, first since the 52-14 tall over Texas Lutheran University.

The all-time series between the Majors and Tigers that began in 1974 has been narrowed to just a one-game advantage in favor of Millsaps (22-21), though Trinity has won seven of the last 10 matchups since 2010.

Coach Speak

"Really proud of our team today, and I think that performance was a reflection of our week of preparation and how we traveled," Head Coach Jerheme Urban began. "We were coming in here fully aware of the opportunity at hand in terms of clinching the AQ, while also recognizing that Millsaps has some talented skill players that we needed to respect in all three phases of the game. I think our development team gave an incredible look all week in practice, and their commitment to improvement this year has resulted in us continuing to have sharper and more intense practices as the year has gone on…their commitment to improvement will also ultimately lead to great things for the program as a whole."

"As for the on-the-field efforts today, it was great to see our defense swarm and create four turnovers, to the see the offense methodically move the ball in a multitude of different ways, and to win the field position game through our kicking game," Urban expressed. "There will definitely be a lot of situational football moments on this film that we can dive into to learn off of and continue to refine ourselves."
 
"All in all, this was a phenomenal team win today, and we had a chance to get a lot of our depth some very valuable game reps as we head into the playoffs," Urban summarized; "this was something I really wanted to do today, and I'm really glad we were able to get those reps." 
 
"While most will want to talk about earning the AQ, and that is to be celebrated, we are going to be fully focused on finishing our season in a positive manner next week," Urban concluded. "We have an incredible opportunity, and we will definitely not overlook it."
 
Up Next

The 2022 regular season will conclude next Saturday (Nov. 12) as No. 5/6 Trinity Football will host Sewanee with a chance at the first 10-0 regular season since the 2011 campaign, and back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. Senior Day festivities will take place prior to the home battle of SAA Tigers.

With the SAA's NCAA III postseason bid already in hand, Trinity will await the NCAA's decision on the Tigers' NCAA III first-round destination. The NCAA III Football Championship selection show will be broadcast live on NCAA.com at 4 p.m. CT on Sunday, November 13.