Turnovers doom Baker in loss
A nasty bout with turnovers Saturday brought the Baker University football team back to reality from its season-opening win. Central Methodist took advantage of eight Wildcat mistakes for a 30-6 win.
First-year head coach Mike Grossner agreed it was a case of whatever could go wrong, did go wrong in the loss.
"You've got that right," said Grossner, adding that the only thing to do is forget about it and move onto this Saturday's game against Missouri Valley. "It is gone and that's what we told the kids. It's a lesson. We've got two teams coming into the game this week (Baker and Missouri Valley) that lost because of turnovers.
"I told the kids, it's not always as good as it seems and it's not always as bad as it seems," he said. "Reality is somewhere in the middle. We've got to focus on minimizing mistakes. Our kids did play hard."
Baker only trailed 6-0 at halftime and it was one of those turnovers that gave Central Methodist the score.
"Our defense held them at the one yard line. It was a heck of a goal-line stand," said Grossner. "On our first snap, we fumbled and it took them three plays to get it in. We felt pretty good at halftime."
But, it was all down hill from there. Baker's three top tailbacks were unable to make it through the second half, which reduced the running game to nothing. That paved the way for six Baker interceptions.
"John Reeves couldn't go. He got overheated. Silas Williams blew a shoulder and Micah Mason was sick," he said. "Our quarterback had a tough game."
Still, Baker hung tough and got its lone score in the fourth quarter after the Eagles has intercepted a pass in the end zone, ran it out and fumbled at the two-yard line. Williams scored on the next play for the Wildcats to cut the deficit to 16-6.
That's as close as it got, though. Central Methodist blocked a punt for a touchdown three minutes later. Then the Eagles turned another interception into a touchdown to seal the win.
"Eight turnovers later, you're not going to win a football game," said Grossner. "Three of them went for touchdowns -- a blocked punt for a touchdown, an interception for a touchdown and a fumble for one. You can't turn the ball over eight times and expect to win."
Junior quarterback Brian Sheppard of Destrehan, La., passed for 140 yards for Baker, with Ryan Pitts and Keenan Ganz again emerging as go-to receivers. Pitts, a junior from Carson, Calif., had four catches for 50 yards. Ganz, a senior from Ozark, Mo., had three catches for 52 yards. Reeves, a senior All-American from Palestine, Texas, had 66 yards on 12 carries despite limited playing time.
Junior linebacker Bruce Rogers of Palestine, Texas, led the Wildcat defense with 12 tackles and broke up a pass. Senior linebacker Tyler Hibler of Bates City, Mo., had 11 tackles.
The Wildcats are still considered a top contender in the topsy-turvy Heart of America Athletic Conference that saw stunning upsets again in Week 2. The only remaining unbeaten teams, Central Methodist and Lindenwood University, were picked to finish at the bottom of the conference. The teams expected to finish first and second, Benedictine College and MidAmerica Nazarene University, are still looking for their first conference victory. Baker is in a six-way tie for third place.
Sheppard continues to lead the conference in passing yards by a wide margin. He is averaging 234 yards per game, leading MidAmerica's Jimmy Werbin by 49 yards. Pitts is tied for the league lead in receptions per game with 6.0, and Pitts and Ganz are second and third in receiving yards per game.
The Wildcats face Missouri Valley College (1-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Liston Stadium. Missouri Valley lost 20-13 to Avila last week because of turnovers, but had beaten MidAmerica Nazarene the week before.
"They have a good football team," Grossner said. "They have a good quarterback and tailback. They can run."