Late-game miscues doom Baker
In a battle of unbeatens that lived up to all its hype, two key plays proved to be the difference as No. 15-ranked Baker University was edged 13-10 by No. 6 Benedictine here Saturday.
Both teams displayed swarming defense throughout the game and it resulted in a 0-0 tie at halftime. Baker appeared on its way for a win by taking the second-half kickoff and driving 63 yards for a touchdown. Another long drive to open the fourth quarter resulted in a field goal and Baker was up 10-0, which looked to be enough.
It wasn't. With 6:57 left in the game, Benedictine scored on a 50-yard touchdown pass. It was the only big play surrendered by the Wildcats all day. Benedictine missed the extra point, meaning a field goal couldn't tie it and left the Wildcats still in control.
But, on the ensuing kickoff, Baker fumbled. Benedictine cashed it in with a four-play, 24-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown with 5:11 left. Baker had one last drive, but it ended with an interception and Benedictine wrapped it up to remain unbeaten at 8-0, while Baker fell to 7-1.
"It was a heck of a college football game," said Baker coach John Frangoulis. "We gave a great effort and they gave the type of effort it takes to win the ballgame. Benedictine's a very good football team and I give a lot of credit to them for coming back."
Like most of those packed into Liston Stadium, Frangoulis thought the 10 points put up by the Wildcats would be enough.
"Our defense played a heck of a game and I felt with a 10-point lead, I didn't know if they could go the length of the field and score twice," he said.
As it unfolded, he was right. Benedictine didn't have to go the length of the field twice. The fumbled kickoff return took care of that.
"We made one more mistake than they did," said Frangoulis.
On the final drive, the Wildcats opted to go for a touchdown rather than a game-tying field goal.
"With the wind blowing we thought we were a little too far out for a field goal so we went for it, but they obviously had their DBs playing back and they made a good play on the ball," he said.
The statistics showed how close the game was. Baker had the edge in rushing with 165 yards to Benedictine's 112. Benedictine's passing game proved to be the difference with 208 yards on a 15-for-31 throwing day. Baker countered with 6-for-16 and 93 yards. Benedictine was intercepted once and fumbled once. Baker coughed up two fumbles and had two interceptions.
BU tailback Terence Spencer led the way with 101 yards on 25 carries. It was mostly Spencer on the long drive that resulted in Baker's touchdown as he picked up 43 of the 62 yards on seven carries. Quarterback Levi Schuck scored the touchdown on a 10-yard draw play.
"We changed some things up at halftime, some blocking assignments," Frangoulis said of the changes that sparked the Baker offensive performance. "We made some adjustments. Terence ran the ball well and the blocks were there."
The Baker defense made adjustments of its own, mostly on Benedictine runners. Four players were especially big, recording double-digit tackling. Eric Moore had 14 stops, eight unassisted, and also had two sacks and a fumble recovery. Mark Emry had 11 tackles, with 10 being solos, and added an interception. Carlos Grace also had 11 stops (eight solos), and three of them were for losses. Mickey Ramsey chipped in with 10 tackles, six unassisted, three were for losses and he also had a sack.
Despite the loss, Baker remains in the post-season playoff run. The Wildcats travel to MidAmerica Nazarene Saturday for another tough Heart of America Athletic Conference game. Both teams have single losses after MidAmerica bounced Missouri Valley 59-8 last week. Benedictine beat MidAmerica earlier in the season. Game time is 1:30 p.m.
Baker will close out the regular season Nov. 11 at home against Missouri Valley.