Wildcats win OT contest
LIBERTY, Mo. -- A 35-yard field goal by junior Ryan Smith helped the Baker University football team beat rival William Jewell College for the first time since 2000.
Baker allowed the Cardinals to score 10 points in the final five minutes of the game. Smith's overtime field goal lifted Baker to a 27-24 victory here on Saturday.
"They are a good football team," Baker coach Mike Grossner said of Jewell. "We hadn't beaten them since 2000, we were playing at their place and they are our rival. So, to go over there and face that much adversity and come out with a win like we did shows a lot about the character of our kids and football team."
Leading 24-14 late in the game, Baker punted to William Jewell. The Cardinals moved down and kicked a field goal with three minutes remaining.
Baker gained possession on the kickoff, but was unable to collect a first down. William Jewell returned the punt to Baker's 30-yard line. After a couple of fourth-down conversions, the Cardinals punched the ball in the end zone with five seconds left in the game to tie the score 24-24.
"I think since we had the lead the whole game, we had a comfort zone, until they closed the gap quickly," Grossner said.
In overtime, Baker opted to play defense first. The Cardinals threw a pass to the back of the end zone that was intercepted by Baker sophomore Eric Allen.
The Wildcats went for the game-winning touchdown on their first play, but the pass was dropped. They ran two more running plays to set up the field goal by Smith, which won the game.
"There were a lot of unsung heroes for us throughout the game," Grossner said. "We are playing well. We are finding a way to win."
Besides the game-winning field goal, Baker used its special teams to defeat its rival. The Wildcats also blocked three punts for two touchdowns.
One of those touchdowns happened in the first quarter and gave the Wildcats a 10-0 lead.
"We got up 10-0 early," Grossner said. "The wind was a factor, because it was behind us in the first quarter. We could have scored more, because we didn't take advantage of the field position we had."
Both teams exchanged touchdowns in the second quarter to make the score 17-7. Right before halftime, Grossner called for a big play, but it backfired on Baker.
"Right before the half, we got the ball," Grossner said. "I was going for a big play, but they (Jewell) sacked us and caused a fumble. They punched one in right after that, so it was 17-14."
After halftime, Baker moved the ball into Cardinal territory several times but failed to score any points. Baker fumbled twice inside the red zone and once on a field goal attempt.
"Offensively, we only punted once up until the fourth quarter," Grossner said. "We were moving the ball, but not finishing drives."
Grossner said the turnovers were tough to take, because they changed the momentum of the game.
"It was very frustrating," Grossner said. "Football is a game of momentum and it's how long you can sustain it. If you lose it, how quickly can you get it back? We had momentum, but then all of a sudden it was like a punch in the gut. We couldn't get that next score to put us ahead two or three scores. It was frustrating."
Baker added one more score in the fourth quarter when junior D.J. Carter blocked a punt and Allen returned it for a touchdown. That gave Baker its 24-14 lead.
"Our special teams is what won the game for us," Grossner said. "We had three blocked punts and two were returned for touchdowns. We also hit a 46-yard field goal and a 35-yard field goal. We also had two big kick returns."
Baker is now 2-0 on road games and 1-0 with overtime games. Grossner said his team will learn from the final minutes of the game.
"Looking back on it, I think our team will grow from that experience," Grossner said. "We were able to play an overtime and get that experience. It's always nice to win."
The Wildcats will next play Evangel University at 6 p.m. Saturday at Liston Stadium. It will be the second home game for the Wildcats and another game against a tough conference foe.
"They have had a couple of set backs with close games," Grossner said of Evangel. "They are going to be wanting to get back into the heat of the HAAC (Heart of America Athletic Conference) race. It should be a tough battle."
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