Baker dirty, but unbeaten
There was just enough lightning to make it interesting and enough rain to cause a good-old fashioned mud bowl Saturday as the Baker University Wildcats sloshed and pounded their way to a 43-19 victory over Culver-Stockton.
While that sounds one-sided, it wasn't until a brief lightning storm halted play between the first and second quarters. Officials called for a delay as Baker was hanging onto a 19-12 lead. It proved to be a good thing for BU.
"They do some things offensively we don't see very often," said Baker coach John Frangoulis, "and the weather gave us some time to go in and make adjustments before halftime."
From there, BU's defense stiffened and didn't allow another score until the game was almost over. In fact, the Wildcats held Culver-Stockton's high-powered "run-and-gun" offense to 242 total yards, 100 under the team's season average. They also forced seven turnovers.
"Turnovers are a segment of practice every day. The big thing with turnovers is for the offense to capitalize on them and we did," said Frangoulis.
Baker did that big time, turning four Culver-Stockton turnovers in the second quarter into three touchdowns to cruise to a 40-12 halftime lead. The second half turned real dirty as a downpour that started just before halftime turned the Liston Stadium field into a muddy quagmire.
"The lightning and everything kept things exciting," he said. "I'm surprised we scored as many points as we did in those kind of conditions."
But, Baker had put enough points on the board to easily remain unbeaten at 6-0, 5-0 in Heart of America Athletic Conference play. BU's offense rolled for 505 total yards and showed true balance with 248 rushing yards and 257 through the air.
"That's what you strive to do to keep people off balance," he said. "We feel like we have a threat to throw the ball, a threat to catch the ball and a threat to run the ball."
Terence Spencer, a 6-0, 175-pound senior from La Puente, Calif., started the Baker scoring with a 13-yard run. After Culver-Stockton answered with a touchdown, senior quarterback Levi Schuck, a 6-1, 209-pounder from Peoria, Ariz., went to work. First he scored on a pair of runs, the first a 16-yarder and the second a 1-yarder.
But he wasn't through there by a long shot. Next Schuck used his arm to hit his favorite target, senior wide receiver Mackie Valentin, with two touchdown passes, the first covering 20 yards and the second 59 yards. He still wasn't done. With 1:23 left in the half and the rain coming down, Schuck went into the end zone on a 4-yard run. After Brant Brittingham's successful extra-point kick, Baker's 40-12 halftime lead was in place.
"We had some big plays on the passes and also on the runs and were able to put a few more points on the board," said Frangoulis.
Brittingham provided the only second-half points for Baker with a 41-yard field goal in conditions that were far from perfect for kickers.
Schuck ended the wet day with a 10-for-18 passing performance good for 249 yards and the two touchdowns. Valentin again had the lion's share of that action, catching six passes for 172 and both scores.
Spencer turned in his third straight 100-yard rushing performance by slogging through the mud for 145 yards on 25 carries. Schuck was the second-leading rusher with 10 carries and 53 yards.
Defensively, Carlos Grace, Baker's standout 6-1, 270-pound defensive lineman from Houston, led the way with seven tackles (five solos and one for a loss), a fumble recovery and a sack. Mickey Ramsey also had seven tackles (four solos and one for a loss) and an interception. Mark Emry and Darrell Jones also had interceptions, while Mark Miller and Corey Fulk chipped in with fumble recoveries.
Next up for the No. 25-ranked Wildcats will be a road trip Saturday to Evangel, which is 3-2. Game time in Springfield, Mo., will be 8 p.m.
"They have the best team we've played to date," said Frangoulis. "They are a good football team and always have been."