Wildcats inconsistent, lose on homecoming
Several miscues and failures to execute hurt the Baker University football team as it dropped to 0-5 with a 23-18 loss at home to Central Methodist University in a wet, sloppy game.
"Saturday's game was very frustrating," coach Mike Grossner said. "We felt like we were the better football team, no doubt."
The Wildcats battled back and forth with the Eagles, but came out with another loss on the season.
"Offensively, it was one of the worst outings that we have had in a long time," sophomore Micah Mason said. "Defensively, we played great except for three plays. We just struggled offensively and there were some bad decisions made."
Baker had many opportunities to hit an open wide receiver, but the passes were inaccurate.
"There were 10 to 11 plays I saw on film that we had an opportunity for a touchdown and we didn't execute," Grossner said. "It was one of those days for our quarterbacks."
Both quarterbacks, Brian Sheppard and Kendall Bradley, saw ample playing time Saturday, but neither could get into a passing rhythm.
Grossner said he is trying to find the one that will be the leader of the team.
"Brian (Sheppard) has been hurt, but his thumb is coming back," Grossner said. "There are certain throws he still can't make. Kendall started the ballgame, but we were not executing. I put Brian in because I know he can spark us. We got two good drives out of him, then two or three mistakes that hurt us. I am trying to find a guy that will be efficient, consistent and lead this football team to a win."
Central Methodist struck first in the game as it drove and scored a touchdown early in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead. The Wildcats answered back with a 38-yard run from Seth Williams, but a missed extra point left Baker down 7-6.
Later in the half, Sheppard connected with James Hensley for an 11-yard scoring pass. On the two-point conversion, Sheppard fumbled, giving Baker a 12-7 lead.
Grossner said the team could have delivered a knockout blow with another score.
"Then we fumbled the ball in the red zone and blocked the punt to get the ball down there again," Grossner said. "Then we proceeded to have some penalties and missed passes and then threw an interception. That's when you have to knock them out by taking the big momentum into halftime."
Baker was driving when Sheppard threw a touchdown pass to Ryan Pitts, which was called back for offensive pass interference. Sheppard then threw an interception a few plays later.
"We had a chance at a third score to start separating ourselves from them, but we had a touchdown called back on an offensive pass interference," Grossner said. "After you watch it on film, it was kind of a phantom call."
Central Methodist added a rushing touchdown to take a 14-12 lead. Baker later scored to finish the half with a 40-yard touchdown to Pitts. On the two-point try, Sheppard threw an interception that was returned for two points, giving Baker an 18-16 lead at halftime.
"We threw a simple swing pass, which is a screen to Micah (Mason)," Grossner said. "We don't make the proper throw and it gets intercepted and ran back 100 yards for two points."
Neither team scored in the second half until Central Methodist busted a 59-yard run to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter. Baker was never able to regain the lead as it dropped its fifth straight game of the season, Baker's worst start since 1973.
"Our defense played well the second half and we had the lead with about eight minutes left," Grossner said. "We could not get anything going offensively. Then all of a sudden they (CMU) break a long run for a touchdown. Then we had to score to win it and we didn't get it done."
Mason thought the Wildcats were playing to the level of their opponent instead of at their own level.
"Throughout the entire game we were playing down to their (CMU) level," Mason said. "They came together as a team and got the win. It felt like something was holding us back the entire game."
"Our offense is kind of strange," Mason said. "We will go three-and-out then one play will spark the drive and show that we can move the ball. It's little things that give us some confidence, which is something we need right now."
Baker threw many passes down field Saturday, but Grossner said that is because of the opposing defense.
"Central Methodist presented a defense where they are going to come after you and create havoc," Grossner said. "But they do allow you to go over the top and throw the football."
Baker is winless on the season, but Grossner said the Wildcats could be better than .500 with a couple plays going different ways.
"If you look at our season under a microscope we could be 3-2, with a couple breaks going here and there," Grossner said. "We played well enough to win three games. But we're 0-5 and were not doing the little things to get over the hump. That's what's frustrating."
Grossner doesn't doubt the Wildcats are hungry for a win, but he feels they may be trying too hard to get that victory.
"I think it's to a point where it pushes them to a sense of urgency and they are trying to hard and make those mistakes, instead of being relaxed and just playing football," Grossner said. "We have taken every approach, now we are trying to stay positive."
The Wildcats next game is at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Marshall, Mo. against Missouri Valley College. MVC is ranked No. 17 in the nation and is the best team in the conference Grossner has seen on film.