“You want to challenge yourself”: No. 11 Muhlenberg prepares to defend conference title in 2022, opens season at No. 1 UMHB

Earlier mentioned picture courtesy of Muhlenberg University

ALLENTOWN, Penn.-More than the past eight yrs, just 7 teams nationally have accrued a streak with 8 wins or more in each individual of individuals seasons. Just one of those people programs is UMHB, the defending countrywide champions. An additional is the Crusaders’ week a person opponent: 11th-rated Muhlenberg College. 

Number of systems in the east have relished the level of regularity that the Mules have, particularly as of late. Ranked No. 7 to end the 2021 season, Muhlenberg has posted a double-digit acquire full in each of the 3 seasons that present-day head mentor Nate Milne has led the application. Also, Muhlenberg has also successfully laid assert to the Centennial Convention Championship for the last three years. And the Mules have not just been very good regionally, or in the typical time. They have established they belong in the Top rated 15 with at the very least two postseason victories in all three of people years underneath Milne. In other words and phrases, consistency does not deficiency in Allentown. 

“I consider it is been our depth,” Milne claimed in a modern interview with Accurate To The Cru. “We’ve been privileged to recruit some pretty gifted gamers and build gamers in which an injury does not gradual you down. I consider there are a lot of talented teams in division three, but not everybody has the similar amount of depth.”

Muhlenberg head coach Nate Milne (Photograph courtesy of Muhlenberg School)

The Mules proved that to be at minimum a major element of the equation a yr back, as they knowledgeable a plethora of injuries to essential contributors as the yr performed out, and nevertheless identified the way to victory. Muhlenberg shut out consecutive opponents in the to start with two rounds of the playoffs, just before slipping in a slender 35-29 overtime end result towards Mount Union. 

“We experienced a pair of accidents in the offensive line and it hardly ever slowed us down,” Milne, who formerly head coached at Susquehanna College or university, claimed. “We experienced a couple of injuries at running again, and we just plugged and performed. We ended up lacking our most effective cornerback for the previous two playoff game titles, and we experienced a lot of fellas who had performed throughout the year stage up.”

The Mules ended up a primary instance a calendar year ago of a crew that reached its peak at the great point in the year. As their energy on the offensive and defensive lines steadily enhanced, Muhlenberg entered its title into the nationwide conversation a lot more and additional frequently. A challenging 42-35 loss to meeting foe Ursinus in September was the commencing of a 9-activity win streak that highlighted a 21-6 win about then-No. 11 Johns Hopkins in mid-Oct. 

“We had been common to down below typical at the starting of the season,” Milne noted of the offensive line, which incorporates numerous returning starters this time. “We experienced 5 manufacturer-new starters previous calendar year. We realized that would be a thing that took some time to develop, but the moment they acquired it figured out, we were fairly great up front.”

“The exact same matter could be claimed for our defensive front,” Milne additional. “We introduced back almost no starters from the 2019 staff. All of those people guys were being brand-new. So we should return some superior gamers on the defensive line that noticed a great deal of participating in time. Early on in the time, I think as our traces go, the staff will go. And the rest of us will have to capture up.”

Milne addresses the group following a game final drop (Image courtesy of Muhlenberg College or university)

Cornerback John Washington headlines the Muhlenberg protection, as a player Milne believes could reach All-American position by the season’s close. An All-Location range in 2021, Washington tallied 3 interceptions and 33 solo tackles. 

Not everybody from the 2021 team is back. Notably, setting up quarterback Mike Hnatkowsky graduated, after throwing for 3,876 yards and 47 touchdowns in a remarkable passing 12 months. In simple fact, Hnatkowsky has been the only player to begin at quarterback with Milne as head coach, meaning that Muhlenberg is, in a way, venturing into uncharted territory at a person of the more critical positions on the area. 

“That situation is one of a kind and particular,” Milne explained. “We’ve been changing truly fantastic players for a long time, and we sense self-assured in the fellas we have on our roster. I think a pair of them are a tiny bit distinct from each and every other and that will be the fun component, looking at which 1 of those people men genuinely steps up.”

Milne quipped that he and his staff will use “six different quarterbacks with six different offenses” on 7 days one particular in Belton, but in all seriousness, the importance of the period-opening duel for both UMHB and Muhlenberg can not be overstated. And maybe even much more so for the Mules. Actively playing in the Centennial Meeting, Milne is restricted to just just one non-conference recreation every single season. This skyrockets the worth of that solitary game, specially in the circumstance that Muhlenberg does not earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Playoffs and is forced to vie for a single of just 3 at-substantial bids. Competing in the exact same meeting as No. 10 Johns Hopkins, that is a likelihood Milne ought to take into account. 

“We did not see any draw back to it,” Milne reported of scheduling UMHB. “Even if we go down there and get rid of, it is going to maximize our power of plan. And we’ll know particularly what type of group we are. We’ll locate out what our fellas are manufactured of to go on the highway versus a person of the greatest groups in school soccer.” 

The buzz surrounding this matchup, not just in Belton or Allentown, but in the D-III neighborhood nationwide can now be felt. Both of those applications have been regular playoff contenders, rated amongst the nation’s most effective for a number of consecutive seasons, and bring a higher-good quality item into just about every sport they play. But not often do these elite packages deal with off outside the house of the postseason. In section, it is in an effort to preserve an unblemished document, but a lot more normally than not, it is the price involved in out-of-area matchups that limits these kind of marquee showdowns. 

“I think it’s awesome,” Milne said. “Not even from finding out what we have. It is every thing we want in higher education football. Coaches, gamers, followers, we all want to see the ideal teams participate in just about every other. And we’ll acquire that opportunity. I believe it will enable us in recruiting, the place we can say, ‘We’ll go on the road and play the No. 1 team in the country. It doesn’t bother us.’ It’s what you want if you are a school soccer player. You really do not occur to Muhlenberg or Mary Hardin-Baylor to get 100 to absolutely nothing. They want to enjoy the finest, particularly in an environment like Crusader Stadium, at night time, in Texas. I don’t know why people wouldn’t indicator up for that.”

The arrangement of the contest arrived as both equally packages searched around and much for high quality opponents in the early months of the calendar year. Scheduling UMHB was not a thought that originally crossed Milne’s thoughts, but shortly became a practical choice for both of those plans. 

“We had been equally sitting there in January and February, contacting around areas [looking for games],” Milne not too long ago recalled. “Admittedly, Mary Hardin-Baylor was not initially on our record. We had seemed at the exact group of schools I imagine they have been on the lookout at, which bundled some of the Wisconsin colleges and some of the Minnesota schools. 

“That was a little bit of shorter journey for us and even now would’ve been a Top rated 10 or Leading 15 matchup. But we couldn’t really make it get the job done out. We have no wiggle place in our agenda. Our convention performs just one week of non-meeting, and then we jump ideal into 9 straight game titles of meeting participate in. So we knew it was 7 days a person or bust.”

With little to work with, Milne produced it distinct that his staff was willing to go on the street, which expanded his solutions greatly. And as he puts it, “a little bit of luck” played into the generation of the initial assembly ever between these two systems. 

“When we mentioned we’d be ready to go on the road to make our agenda balanced, it got all people interested,” he ongoing. “That opened up our possibilities. Coach Fredenburg identified as me in January and we weren’t ready to commit at that time due to the fact we are negotiating with a pair of other packages. But I last but not least got the opportunity to get in touch with the coaches down there and see if they were nonetheless open. Mentor Harmon and I discovered more than enough typical floor and a way to make it perform.”

UMHB-Muhlenberg is not the only large-profile non-convention matchup the D-III entire world will see this season. The Cru has a rematch with Wisconsin-Whitewater the adhering to weekend, and No. 5 St. John’s hosts No. 4 UW-Whitewater on the same night that UMHB is hosting the Mules. Milne hopes that these sorts of non-conference duels can shortly turn out to be the norm, instead than an anomaly. 

“You want to obstacle you,’ Milne explained. “Each group, Muhlenberg and Mary Hardin-Baylor, will make huge strides following this to start with match in the direction of what will finally be how they are remembered at the stop of the season.”