Interception in OT stuns Wildcats
A 101-yard interception return in overtime burst the bubble of the Baker University football team, as it came within one play away from a second straight upset victory Saturday at Liston Stadium.
"It's one of those life experiences where you are high as a kite one second and low as you can get the next," coach Mike Grossner said. "It was like taking a pin to a balloon and watching it burst."
The Wildcats (1-6) were defeated 32-20 by the No. 6 ranked Mid America Nazarene University Pioneers (5-1).
"That's the breaks of overtime," Grossner said. "It's a sudden loss. For our kids to play as hard as they did and as well as they did, was disheartening."
Baker sophomore quarterback Kendall Bradley threw a pass that was intercepted by MANU's Reggie Hudson and taken the distance.
"I didn't see him there and he hid himself really well," Bradley said. "I wish I would have thrown it away, but he made a good play."
MANU started overtime with a 25-yard touchdown pass. But the Wildcats blocked the extra point, keeping the victory chances alive.
"We got scored on in one play, and then we turn around with great character and make a block," Grossner said. "As soon as we blocked their extra point, we knew we were going to score and win that football game."
Three penalties by the Pioneers helped Baker secure a first down at the five-yard line.
Baker ran one running play that just got back to the line of scrimmage. Then the Wildcats tried throwing to freshman James Hensley, but were picked off, ending the game.
Grossner knew the play call was dicey, but if it didn't work, the next play was going to score the touchdown.
"We had an idea that this second play was risky, but the idea was if we don't like it throw the ball away," Grossner said. "Their linebacker make a perfect break and actually caught the ball in our backfield. Our next we mostly likely would have scored, because we had it set up to throw a fade to Pitts."
The idea of running the ball into the end zone was tried by Baker, but Grossner said the offense has to rely on what has worked before.
"We haven't shown all year we can run in it inside the red zone," Grossner said. "We only have two rushing touchdowns this year. We are who we are on offense and we know it."
The Wildcats tied the game at 20-20 in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. The 11-play, 65-yard drive was capped off with an 11-yard pass from Bradley to Hensley.
After trailing 10-7 at halftime, the Pioneers scored two touchdowns during the second half.
Right before halftime, Bradley found senior Ryan Pitts for an eight-yard touchdown to take a lead before the break.
The game started off with two explosive plays from both teams. MANU ran the opening kickoff back 90 yards for a quick 7-0 lead.
Grossner was happy to see his team bounce back from a play like that.
"For us to respond how we did shows me that have progressed," Grossner said. "We took the very next play and went 75 yards."
The Wildcats took their next offensive play and threw a pass from
Bradley to Hensley that went down to the MANU five-yard line. The Wildcats kicked a field goal four plays later.
The offensive line and receivers were two reasons the Wildcats' offense had success Saturday.
"Our line blocked pretty well for most of the game," Bradley said. "Our receivers ran good routes and got open. Our guys just found holes to get open."
This was one game that neither team should have lost, according to Grossner.
"Both teams deserve a win," Grossner said. "It was one of those games. It was a hard-fought game and we came out on the short end."
Bradley was 23 of 39 for 328 yards passing for the game. Grossner doesn't believe the one interception can diminish how good of a game he played.
"We just made a miss read and throw," Grossner said. "The same guy made 20 great throws to get us in that situation."
The Wildcats are 1-6 with their next game at 0-6 Avila University. If Grossner can get his team to keep playing hard, he will know the team is moving in the right direction.
"I'll take the level of play from the past two weeks for the rest of the year and we'll walk away happy," Grossner said. "Our wins and losses won't show it, but our kids realize where we are at and where we are going."
Bradley said Avila is a better team than its record shows.
"Avila is not an 0-6 team," Grossner said. "They are actually a pretty good team. We are just going to try and balance out the run and pass a bit more."
The Wildcats play at 1 p.m. Saturday at Avila in Kansas City, Mo.
"I think our kids are still a little shocked," Grossner said. "You try to get it out of their head, but it's difficult to do. We are also beat up. The best remedy for a mentally and physically beat up team is to play another game. Saturday can't come too soon."