Seniors step up in BU finale
Baker University senior Jeremiah Gress has now experienced dejvu when it comes to senior day victories.
Last November, Gress was honored on senior day, before the Wildcats went on to defeat Culver-Stockton College 28-17. He thought it was his last game in a Baker uniform.
In August, Gress was granted one more year of eligibility because he only played one junior varsity game during his freshman year. Then on Saturday, he helped lead the Wildcats (4-6) to a 23-10 victory over Lindenwood University (5-7) at Liston Stadium.
"It feels great," Gress said of the win. "We didn't have the season we all wanted, but when you go out on a win, it feels a lot better."
Before the game, Gress took part in the pre-game senior day festivities for the second straight year.
"I've gone through it twice now, so I am sort of used to it," Gress said. "It's not nearly as emotional, because I've been through it before. It was nice."
Fellow senior Travis Viehweg was excited to win his last game as a Wildcat.
"It feels great," Viehweg said. "I wouldn't take this over anything in the world. It's one of the best feelings I've ever had."
Both players came up with big defensive plays for Baker. Viehweg sacked the Lindenwood quarterback in its end zone, causing him to fumble. Viehweg recovered the ball, giving Baker its second touchdown of the day and a 13-10 lead.
"It was really nice, especially with that last touchdown," Viehweg said of the win. "I've never scored a touchdown in my life and it was good to have that in my last game."
Gress sealed the victory in the final two minutes by intercepting a Lions' pass at their 40-yard line.
Junior Brad Page also snagged an interception during the game. Baker forced five Lindenwood turnovers during the game.
"They are always big," coach Mike Grossner said of turnovers. "If you win the turnover war, you are going to win most games and that proved right tonight."
Baker junior Micah Mason said the turnovers helped in a couple of ways.
"Turnovers are big in a couple of ways," Mason said. "One is field position, because it improves your field position. Two, it's a momentum changer. From all of those turnovers, we had the momentum in the second half."
Baker began the game slowly, as it only managed 70 yards of offense. The Lions capitalized on their 238 yards by scoring in the second quarter. Lindenwood scored a touchdown and field goal to take a 10-0 lead into halftime.
"We knew we were still in the game if we came out better than we did in the first half," Gress said. "We just needed to come out and do what it took to win."
On its opening possession of the second half, Baker drove 46 yards in six plays. The drive was capped off with a 13-yard touchdown pass from freshman Mack Brown to junior Mark Kabbany.
"That was my first one of the year," Kabbany said. "It was great timing. It was sweet. I sat out the first half and got a chance to come in the second half. I just did my thing out there, sparked us a bit and the guys took over from there."
Neither team scored for the remainder of the quarter. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Viehweg recovered the fumble to give Baker a 13-10 lead.
The Wildcats found the end zone again less than three minutes later. Brown connected with freshman Brad Fawcett for an 18-yard touchdown pass. Baker then led 20-10 with 12:05 left in the game.
Baker added the final touch to the victory when freshman Derek Doerfler kicked a 47-yard field goal with 2:44 left in the game. After the Gress interception, Baker ran out the clock, securing the win.
"This was a great win," Grossner said. "I've envisioned how this team could play and that was it. In the first half, we sputtered a bit. But in the second half, all phases came out and played the way we are capable of. A young team is going to sputter at times. I was proud of how we came back and took it to a very good football team. There was no doubt who won that football game."
Grossner and Mason were both proud of how the Wildcats regrouped at halftime to comeback and win the game.
"They rallied themselves at half," Grossner said. "All I had to say was we've been down 10-0 before, so this is nothing new to us. I think we were shooting ourselves in the foot. All it took was a big play by the offense and that got the defense rolling. In the second half, we fed off each other and played as well as we can."
Mason said Baker realized what its problems were in the first half and corrected those at halftime.
"We just made some adjustments," Mason said. "At halftime, we weren't necessarily down about what happened in the first half, but we started communicating about what happened and made our adjustments. Then we came out and really shut their offense down."
Saturday's victory was the final game for the Wildcats' seniors. Grossner was proud of how many of them played in their final game.
"A lot of the seniors contributed," Grossner said. "Travis Viehweg getting that fumble or Jeremiah getting that pick. Seth Williams comes in and makes some tough yards on the ground for us. A lot of those guys did a nice job in their last action."
Kabbany said the victory was for those seniors.
"We loved our seniors," Kabbany said. "We loved our teammates and we went out there and played 100 percent for those seniors. That's all it took was that desire for our teammates. It was all smiles in the BU locker room today."
Baker won two of its first three games and two of its final three games, but that final victory will give it confidence heading into the off season.
"That's what you are going to remember going into the off season," Grossner said. "Those seniors are going to remember their last game. To beat a team like Lindenwood the way we did, should give our guys great confidence in the off season, make them work hard, understand that we are a good football team and have a chance to win the HAAC."