‘Back in Black’
Vintage black uniforms, a new mascot and the home opener.
Anything other than a blowout win wouldn't seem fitting for the Baker University football team.
Well, the Wildcats delivered just that Saturday afternoon at Liston Stadium. The Wildcats (1-1) crushed Culver-Stockton College 40-14.
"I thought we came out and played well," coach Mike Grossner said. "We did what we had to do on both sides of the ball to get a good lead. There is nothing more we could have asked for from a home opener."
Baker sported the vintage black uniforms that were worn during the 1980s and early '90s under the coaching of the late Charlie Richard. The Wildcats have returned to the black for Baker's 150th anniversary.
Wildcat players enjoyed returning to the black uniforms, which once marked the glory days of Baker football.
"Oh yeah, especially in the black (uniforms)," senior Frank Owens said. "We are bringing the black back. I love wearing the black. It's much more intimidating."
Owens led the rushing attack for Baker as he carried the ball 14 times for 107 yards. He became the first running back for Baker to top the century mark in yards since Jon Reeves in 2004.
As a team, Baker rushed for 220 yards. Freshman Blaine Crow carried the ball 10 times for 97 yard during the second half as Baker put away its opponent.
"We struggled running early," Grossner said. "Their purpose and focus was to stop our run and they did early. We had to throw the ball a bit to loosen them up. After that both phases were working."
Baker also passed the ball for 267 yards. Sophomore Mack Brown accounted for 264 of those yards as he began his second year as the Wildcats' signal caller.
Brown enjoyed winning the first home game of the season and hopes the fan support will return to Liston on Sept. 22.
"It felt good to get the first win of the year," Brown said. "Hopefully, we can take off from this win."
Brown connected with sophomore Brett Woods on the Wildcats' first score of the game. It was a 22-yard touchdown pass that gave Baker a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
"Yeah, it was nice," Brown said of throwing the first touchdown pass. "It's kind of like baseball, where you're always looking for that first hit or first strike out. I was just looking for that first completion and then first touchdown pass."
Baker added another score less than three minutes later when Owens broke for a 44-yard touchdown run. He broke a couple of tackles before out running the Culver defense up the BU sideline.
"It was great," Owens said. "I was tired, but it was wonderful. Hopefully, there are many more of those to come."
The Wildcats' next score would set a school record. Junior Derek Doerfler booted a 57-yard field goal that sailed through the uprights, giving Baker a 16-0 lead and setting a new Baker record. The former record of 53 yards was set by Mike Gardner in 1988.
"That's not a surprise, because I've seen him hit one further in practice," Grossner said. "I felt right then he could make it. I don't want to put him in that situation too many times, because he could kick a line drive or it could be blocked. He is a great weapon to have and besides that he is a great kid."
Baker added two more touchdowns before halftime. Senior Brad Page returned an interception 14 yards for a score. Sophomore Brad Fawcett caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Brown before the half to give Baker a 30-0 lead at the break.
Culver mounted a slight comeback late in the third quarter as it scored two touchdowns within the final three minutes of the period.
Grossner wasn't too pleased with his team's effort late in the quarter.
"When you go into halftime with a 30-0 lead, it's hard to maintain a little bit of focus," Grossner said. "You can tell your team it's 0-0 but I think we came out a little unfocused. We let them back in it a bit, but I am proud of how we responded and took over once again."
However, Baker bounced back and put the game on ice in the fourth quarter. Crow rushed for a 20-yard touchdown and Doerfler kicked a 36-yard field goal to give the Wildcats the 40-14 victory.
"It's (winning) always great," Owens said. "We've talked about putting people away and playing to our potential. I think we did today."
Baker travels to Lindenwood this week for its second Heart of America Athletic Conference contest. The game begins at 6 p.m. Saturday in St. Charles, Mo.
"We're looking forward to Lindenwood," Owens said. "They are looking to get one from us after we beat them last year, but we are looking to get one from them."