Wildcats ready to go ‘bowling’
It's bowl time at Baker University and the Wildcats are growling. It's been awhile try 1995 since BU has been in post-season play and it has stirred excitement in the pride's den.
"I'd say so," said head coach John Frangoulis. "We've been close the last several years. I'm sure the players will be excited. I know I am."
Baker will play at 1 p.m. Saturday in the KWTO Bowl in Bolivar, Mo. The Wildcats will take on another form of cat, the Campbellsville, Ky., University Tigers. Baker ended the year with an 8-2 record and is ranked No. 17 in the country. The Tigers countered at 7-3, but they're ranked No. 15. The claws will fly.
"They're a good team," said Frangoulis. "They've got some big people up front and are well coached. It will be a good football game.
"We exchanged our last three tapes with them," he said. "They come out of a good conference. Offensively they run some option and throw the ball."
For Baker, the approach will be a little bit different for the bowl game. The Wildcats have taken some time off since the last Heart of America Athletic Conference game. It was needed and so has been the change of focus.
"Our approach will be you want to win a game anytime you play, but we want to have some fun," said Frangoulis. "There is no championship on the line. We'll have some fun and maybe that's the way you should always approach a game.
"We will be ready," he said. "It was a situation where we had three weeks between games. We gave the players some time off to recuperate and take care of class work. They needed a break and so did we. We've been going at it since August. We were back at practice hard on Monday."
The Wildcats had three hard days of practice, then it was off to Bolivar on Thursday. Everyone is going, not just the usual traveling team.
"We're looking forward to it," said Frangoulis. "We're taking 100 players, not just the usual travel team of 55. We want everyone to experience the bowl game."
That experience will be especially sweet for senior linebacker Jason Montgomery. The 5-foot-9, 201-pound senior from Topeka missed the entire season because of a freak arm injury suffered in August. Montgomery had led the team in tackles for two years, but could only watch as his teammates played during the season. He's healed now and will get to play Saturday.
"He'll be back Saturday," said Frangoulis. "He's a great kid, a great competitor. To lose him in August wasn't good. It gives him an opportunity to play one more game, to go out right. I'm happy for him."
The head coach is also pleased that there is a KWTO Bowl. For too many teams in the NAIA, a good season goes down the tubes if they don't qualify for the playoffs. Such was the case for Baker this year, but just barely.
"I think it's good for the NAIA," he said. "There just aren't enough bowl games."
And don't expect anything different from the Wildcats. What brought them to an 8-2 record and third place in the HAAC will serve them fine in the playoffs. The offense has been up and down, mostly dependent on the performance of senior quarterback Levi Schuck. But, the nationally ranked defense and a high-scoring, well executed special teams play has filled the gap when the offense isn't there.
"You don't want to change too much right now," Frangoulis said. "Offensively, when we're on, we're on and when we're not, we're not. Our defense and special teams have carried us in the meantime. We'll be ready."