Wildcats continue to struggle scoring points
FAYETTE, Mo. -- Offensive woes continued to haunt the Baker University football team as it gained less than 200 yards in its 17-14 loss to Central Methodist University here Saturday.
The Wildcats (2-3) turned the ball over three times and failed on multiple fourth down conversions in their loss to the Eagles (2-3).
"We really sputtered on offense," coach Mike Grossner said. "We've gone through a two-game stretch where we haven't gotten anything done offensively."
Baker fell behind 7-0 early in the game as CMU scored a rushing touchdown. The Eagles then blocked a Baker punt and scored another touchdown. Baker found itself down 14-0 less than nine minutes into the game.
"We started off very slow," Grossner said. "We were down 14-0 before we knew it."
Baker did answer with a blocked punt of its own that was recovered by senior Barnard Pierre for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Neither team managed much offense during the rest of the quarter. Grossner said the team relaxed at halftime, but still struggled offensively in the third quarter.
"At halftime, we talked and settled down," Grossner said. "We came out in the second half, established a couple of drives, blocked another punt and had another interception. We didn't get any scores out of that."
An injury to freshman holder Brad Fawcett forced the Wildcats to go away from using kicker Ryan Smith.
"I was really leery of our kicking game, because Brad Fawcett got hurt on the first play of the game," Grossner said. "He is our fourth holder we have used. I was not going to put Ryan (Smith) in a position for a long field goal. So we went for it a couple of times on fourth down."
Early in the fourth quarter, junior Micah Mason broke loose for a 21-yard touchdown run to tie the game. Grossner felt confident in the outcome after Mason's score.
"We all had a lot of energy at that point," Grossner said. "We felt like we had taken control of the game."
The Baker offense sputtered for the rest of the quarter. Then, the Wildcats got the ball with less than two minutes remaining in the game deep in its own territory.
A long pass completion was called back because of a holding call. On third down, senior Seth Williams fumbled and CMU recovered.
A few plays later, the Eagles kicked the game-winning field goal. Baker had one last shot but another fumble ended the game.
"The bottom line is, you can't fumble in those situations," Grossner said. "We expect to win and finish games."
Baker has lost two games with a combined score of seven points, which is tough for Grossner, because he knows his team is very close to being 4-1 right now.
"The frustration is we have had a chance to win four out of the five games," Grossner said. "We were in the lead or tied with two minutes left and we lost two of them. We could easily be 4-1 and in second place in the conference."
Saturday was the first time since last year that Mason has played much offense. He rushed the ball 16 times for 75 yards. Grossner knows he needs Mason on offense and defense, but also knows he must rest him once in a while.
"Micah was very good," Grossner said. "He played his tail off on defense, also. At one point late in the game, I looked at him and when he looked at me, I knew he needed a break.
"Micah's and my relationship is very strong," Grossner said. "He is very honest with me. I would never question his toughness. When I get that look, it's time to give him a series off, knowing that we are going to need him at a later point."
Baker is slightly banged up after the CMU game, as six players went down with injuries. That brings the season total to 15 players.
"These aren't injuries I can attribute to not being strong enough, field turf or being out of shape," Grossner said. "These are serious bone injuries. It's just one of those years where it keeps piling on."
The Wildcats must now get ready to play Heart of America Athletic Conference leader Missouri Valley College. The Vikings (5-0) are also ranked No. 10 in the country.
"This is a huge game," Grossner said. "Our psyche is a little bruised. We need a win. We have beat Missouri Valley the last two years and they have had good teams both years. They are good and well deserving of their ranking."
The game will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at Liston Stadium. Baker is 0-2 at home this year on the new artificial turf. The Wildcats hope for a win as Saturday is Baker's homecoming and four former athletes will be inducted in the school's Hall of Fame.
"We need to get that monkey off our back," Grossner said. "I heard one of our older players say 'let's get a win on this field.' That was his one comment in the huddle. We would sure like to get a win on it this week."