Defense leads Wildcats to senior day victory
Four turnovers and three second half touchdowns helped the Baker University football team win its final home game of the season 28-17 over Culver-Stockton College Saturday as Liston Stadium.
"That ballgame went about as planned," coach Mike Grossner said. "I thought that was a good football team (Culver). They have beaten William Jewell and Lindenwood. I felt like we got their best shot."
Baker forced four turnovers during the game, three of which were interceptions. The Wildcats only lost the ball once on a fumble.
"I think they were huge," Grossner said. "We turned the ball over once, which is a good recipe for a win. Then we took it away four times. That was a big part of our win."
BU senior Jeremiah Gress was glad the seniors were able to win their final home game.
"It felt awesome," Gress said. "We hadn't won a home game yet this year. It was the last home game ever for the seniors. It felt good."
At Saturday's game, Gress broke the Baker record for number of tackles in a game. Gress was credited with 25 tackles, breaking Mickey Ramsey's record of 24 from 2000.
It was the last home game for the seniors along with being the final Baker game played on the grass field. It will be replaced with synthetic turf.
"We wanted this win so bad, because they are tearing up this field," senior Ryan Pitts said. "Charlie Richard established this field as a winner, and we wanted to go out as a winner. This was for the field and the seniors."
Gress agreed about winning the final Baker game on the field that has seen many winners play on it.
"It was for all of the people that played here before, like Charlie Richard," Gress said. "That's what we talked about before the game. We wanted to go out with a win for them."
Construction on the field will begin soon, which will include a turf field that will be ready next fall. Grossner is glad to see the old field gone and will be ready for the new turf.
"The sod is gone and it got one heck of a beating that day with two games on it," Grossner said. "I think it's going to be refreshing when we see the ground broke for the new field. It's only going to help the whole community when we get that turf put in. It's much needed."
The game started with both teams not moving the ball much until late in the first quarter. Baker broke the scoreless tie with a 36-yard touchdown run by junior Seth Williams.
Culver Stockton then took the kickoff 80 yards, but a tackle by Baker freshman C.J. Boram saved a touchdown. Culver was held to a field goal, making the score 7-3.
In the second quarter, Culver scored on a 75-yard touchdown pass to take a 10-7 lead at halftime.
"We struggled through the first half, but played well enough to stay close," Grossner said. "In the second half, we created some turnovers and made some plays right after those turnovers to get an edge."
The Wildcats came out in the third quarter with a new quarterback. Senior Brian Sheppard entered the game and gave the Baker offense new life.
"I think a quarterback change helped," Grossner said. "Brian (Sheppard) has been really good in a reserve role, from a standpoint that if things aren't going well offensively, he can spark us. That's what you need out of a backup quarterback."
Late in the third quarter, Sheppard connected with Pitts for a 30-yard touchdown strike to give Baker a 14-10 lead.
"We were sputtering a bit, and then coach made the transition of putting Sheppard in the game," Pitts said. "We adjusted well to it. Sheppard told me he needed me to make a big play for him and I told him I was going to be there for him."
Soon after the Baker score, Culver took the lead back with a 28-yard touchdown pass.
Down 17-14, Baker rattled off 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for the win.
The Wildcats' first touchdown was a one-yard quarterback sneak by Sheppard. Later in the quarter, Sheppard threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Pitts for the final score.
Pitts said he was happy to help the team in anyway he could Saturday.
"Anything I can contribute to help, I will remember," Pitts said. "When I come back here, I will remember this last game."
Grossner was happy with his quarterback's performance during the second half.
"He (Sheppard) didn't make all of the right reads and all of the right throws, but he rallied us," Grossner said. "Ryan Pitts is a great target once we get near the goal line. Brian was able to get him the ball in the right position and he didn't turn the ball over."
Gress was really proud of the defensive effort.
"Overall, I think we played really well," Gress said. "There were a couple drives we let up, but we didn't let us in the long run. We got a couple turnovers that really helped turn the game around for us in the fourth quarter."
Baker's final game of the season is at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in St. Charles, Mo., against Lindenwood.
"I'm selling it to our kids that this is a playoff type game," Grossner said. "This is what we would experience at the end of the year next year. We've got to go on the road and win a big game at a tough place."