First half dooms Baker on Richard’s day
A 28-0 hole that Baker University dug for itself in the first half Saturday against No. 8-ranked Lindenwood was too much for the Wildcats to overcome. But, they gave it a shot.
With the stadium full and the players wearing the old black and orange uniforms in honor of Charlie Richard Day, the Wildcats fought back in the second half, but fell short 35-21.
"It was two different halfs," said first-year Baker coach Mike Grossner. "We ran out of time. I'm proud of the way played. It's kind of the story of our year. We made too many mistakes against a good football team.
"I feel like we were the better team except for the mistakes on that Saturday," Grossner said.
Baker had five passes intercepted, fumbled once and had a punt blocked for a safety. The safety and four of the interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, occurred in the first half which put Baker in that 28-0 hole.
"Two of the interceptions were phenomenal," he said. "I'm not making excuses for Brian (Sheppard), but they jumped up and caught it at the line, including the one that was returned for a touchdown. Those things are going to happen. They had a good plan. They had a couple of guys ball hawking."
But, the Wildcats didn't give up. They came out in the second half and scored on a 22-yard run by standout senior All-American tailback John Reeves. That cut it to 28-7 and Baker almost made it closer right after that.
"When it was 28-7, we threw a post route where Keenan Ganz was wide open and was going to go 80 yards for a touchdown. They batted it down at the line," said Grossner. "That was 28-14 and we're right back in it."
Instead, Lindenwood scored on a 26-yard run and bumped the lead up to 35-7. Baker still didn't give up and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, one on a 15-yard pass from Sheppard to Reeves and the other on a one-yard plunge by Reeves.
"I feel good. I felt toward the end if we could have made a defensive stop we were rolling on offense," he said. "It would have come down to an onside kick and a desperation pass.
"If you wipe out that first quarter, it's a different ballgame," said Grossner. "We make no excuses. They made the plays and that's the difference in the game."
Reeves ended the game with 123 yards on 34 carries and the two touchdowns. Sheppard was 20 of 41 for 213 yards, but had the five interceptions. BU had 369 total yards to Lindenwood's 347. The Wildcats also had 21 first downs to 12 for the Lions.
Elliott Gonzales had 10 tackles to lead the Wildcats. Luke Thompson, Jeff Frenya and Brandon Bell all had eight stops.
Lindenwood moved to 8-0 with the win and is atop the Heart of America Athletic Conference. Baker dropped to 4-3. Next up for the Wildcats is a road game Saturday at Benedictine.
"Hopefully, we can feel the positive out of this one is that we can play with anyone," he said. "If we take care of ourselves, the outcome will be good.
"Benedictine is good. They are big and physical and will match up well against us," said Grossner. "I feel comfortable we can move the ball on them. We need to take care of our opportunities in the red zone and come away with some points."
Grossner thought the Charlie Richard Day festivities were great for Baker football. The late legendary coach was honored for being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in August. His family, widow Nancy, son Pat and daughter Amy, were the center of the celebration at halftime Saturday.
"I thought it was a positive," Grossner said of the festivities. "It enabled a lot of people to come back and experience Baker football. I was embarrassed with the first half we showed them, but we were able to correct that in the second half.
"I enjoyed getting to meet and talk to those former players after the game and discuss where we're going with the program," he said.