Wildcats survive thriller at Avila
Despite out gaining its opponent by nearly 300 yards and not allowing an offensive touchdown, Baker University squeaked out a 27-24 victory over Avila Saturday in Heart of America Athletic Conference action.
"Overall it was a workman-like performance," coach Mike Grossner said. "We had 400 yards of offense to their 114. Our defense has really stepped up the past three weeks."
The Wildcats (2-6) traveled to Kansas City, Mo., to play Avila (0-7) after losing a tough game to fifth-ranked Mid America Nazarene University the week before.
On Oct. 15, the Pioneers beat Baker 32-30 in overtime at home, leaving Baker hungry for a win.
"After that Mid America game, the only thing we needed was another game," Grossner said. "We thought about it all week, I am sure."
Baker owned the game except for a few plays that kept Avila alive and in the game.
"We played very well, except for four plays in the whole game," Grossner said. "Three were throws and two of them got returned for touchdowns. Following one of those returns, we fumbled the kickoff into the end zone and they recovered. In a two-second span, they scored 14 points."
Baker took control when it jumped on Avila 10-0 early in the game. Then Avila made a play to close the lead.
"We had it pretty much in hand right before the half," Grossner said. "We were driving, then we threw a 70-yard interception for a touchdown."
Grossner said Baker ran the same play that was intercepted in overtime against MANU, and it was picked off by Avila.
"It was the very same play we ran in the overtime here," Grossner said. "We are two-for-two going the other way. That play is no longer in our offense, and I heard a sigh of relief at halftime."
Before the half, Baker added another touchdown, while Avila scored a field goal. Baker led 17-10 at halftime.
Then the momentum switched direction quickly in the third quarter.
"We proceeded to move the ball, but not score," Grossner said. "Then we threw a pick for a touchdown to let them tie it up, and then that kickoff happened. So all of a sudden with 11 minutes left in the third quarter, we are down 24-17."
After those two plays, Baker started to believe the game was slipping away.
"Everything turned on us and it was raining," Grossner said. "The quarterback is not real confident and players have lost confidence in him."
Baker added a field goal later in the third quarter. Then the Wildcats gained great field position late in the fourth quarter when Grossner switched quarterbacks.
"I made a decision to go with Brian Sheppard at quarterback," Grossner said. "We proceeded to drive it down to their one-yard line. Then we punched it in with a quarterback sneak."
Trailing 27-24, Avila put together a drive of its own, but threw an interception at Baker's one-yard line. The Wildcats gained a couple first downs to run the clock out for the win.
"I would rather win a game like that than blow somebody out," Grossner said. "You learn how to come from behind and make plays in the end to preserve a win by knocking out a first down or two."
Grossner is really proud of how the Baker defense has played the previous three weeks.
"We're real happy with their play in the last three ball games," Grossner said. "I think there is a real belief they can stop anybody."
Baker is trying to finish its season by getting better each week and not worring about wins and losses.
"I told the guys wins and losses were thrown out a long time ago," Grossner said. "We just want to progress and get better each week."
This week the Wildcats travel to Ashland, Ore., to play Southern Oregon at 6 p.m. Saturday.