Bowl-bound Baker wins big
Baker University made a statement Saturday with its 52-14 blasting of Missouri Valley in the regular-season finale at Liston Stadium. But, it won't be the last one the Wildcats make this season.
It was made official Monday Baker has been invited to play in the KWTO Bowl in Bolivar, Mo., on Dec. 2. It's the first post-season appearance for the Wildcats since 1996. BU coach John Frangoulis is excited about ending the drought.
"There isn't any question about that," said Frangoulis. "Our goal every year is to win a championship. When you get to this point of the season, you want to keep playing.
"How many kids get to go to the post-season? Not very many," he said. "This is the only real bowl game in the NAIA, so there are a lot of teams sitting at home. We're looking forward to it."
Baker's win Saturday left the Cats with an 8-2 record. In the final NAIA rankings, the Wildcats are at No. 17 and their opponent in the bowl game, Campbellsville, Ky., is ranked No. 15. Both teams were edged out of NAIA playoff spots, but they're ready to play another game anyway.
"They're two good teams that are probably disappointed that they aren't in the playoffs," said John Fuller, Baker spokesman.
The bowl game possibility has been on the back burner for three weeks while the Heart of America Athletic Conference title was being decided. With the conference standings go a pair of playoff spots and those went to MidAmerica Nazarene and Benedictine, who both knocked off Baker at the tail end of the season.
Saturday's game was a way for the Wildcats to erase thoughts of those losses, especially the MidAmerica game, and go on.
"We were embarrassed at MidAmerica," said Frangoulis. "They have a good team, but we don't want to play like that.
"I didn't want to back into the bowl game with three straight losses," he said of Saturday's lopsided win. "It was a great way to end the regular season. Everyone played well."
BU jumped out early and just kept going. William Harris opened the scoring by picking off a Missouri Valley pass and returning it 28 yards for a touchdown. The offense then stepped up with a touchdown on a 42-yard pass from Levi Schuck to Mackie Valentin. Then it was the special teams turn with Thomas Jefferson returning a blocked punt 25 yards for a score.
A team safety gave the Wildcats two more points and the offense closed out the first-half scoring with a 23-yard run by Terence Spencer and an 81-yard pass from Schuck to Todd Hitchcock. Ryan Stewart converted all five extra point kicks to help put BU firmly in control at 37-0 at the halftime buzzer.
After Missouri Valley got on the scoreboard in the third quarter, Baker answered with a pair of touchdowns. Spencer went in from 16 yards out and Valentin caught a 34-yard scoring strike from Schuck. That gave BU its 52 points in the third quarter and the only other score in the game came in the fourth frame by Missouri Valley.
"They had beaten us the last two times, so this was a good win," said Frangoulis. "We have a great group of kids who have busted their tails. An 8-2 football team deserves to go somewhere."
That will be the KWTO Bowl in Bolivar, which was started a year ago and is sponsored by a local radio station and the Bolivar Chamber of Commerce. Tickets for the 1 p.m. game are available through the Baker Athletic Department or at The Lodge and are $3 for students and $5 for others.
Baker's opponent in the game, Campbellsville, Ky., has a 7-3 record. In addition to the game, there are several banquets and a trip to the Bass Pro Shop in nearby Springfield is also planned.
"I was so impressed with the excitement in the community," said BU athletic director Dan Harris who was in Bolivar Monday for a press conference. "It's a great football area and the fans know they have two good football teams coming Dec. 2."
"This is a great opportunity for our football team," said Frangoulis. "We won eight football games and there aren't too many teams in the country that can say that. Playing in the post season is always an honor. We'll have fun, but we'll also be prepared to win the ballgame."