Wildcats pluck rival Ravens
Needing a defensive stop to seal the victory, the Baker University football team turned to its third-team All-Heart of America Athletic Conference defensive back.
Junior Eric Allen jumped a Benedictine College receiver's route to intercept a pass late in the fourth quarter. Allen's interception clinched Baker's 25-20 victory over its rival Saturday at Liston Stadium.
"This was a very big win for us," Allen said. "It's one of the greatest feelings in the world to beat Benedictine. I love beating them."
With the game on the line and a defensive stop needed, Allen said he had to make a play for his team and his coaches.
"I knew I had to step up and make a play," Allen said. "My coaches are always asking me to in practice. I was given the opportunity and I took advantage of it."
Baker coach Mike Grossner said Allen stepped up and made the game-winning play, but he wasn't the only defensive player to make a big play Saturday night.
"There were a lot of big plays on the defensive side of the ball," Grossner said. "Micah Mason knocked two quarterbacks out and made a stop on their fourth-down-and-1 play. Brad Page recovered two fumbles and DJ Carter had an interception. Eric Allen had a great play to end the game, since they were on our side of the field."
Saturday's win was the second home victory for the Wildcats (2-2) this season. Two weeks ago, they beat Culver-Stockton 40-14.
The Wildcats set a goal at the beginning of the season to win every home contest. Junior James Hensley said the Wildcats are on their way to achieving that goal.
"It's always nice to win at home," Hensley said. "One of our goals is to be undefeated at home this year, so far, so good. We need to keep it up. It's nice to see the fans out here supporting us. That means a lot."
It took until the second half before Baker could get on the scoreboard Saturday. The Wildcats had chances to score in the first half, but were unable to come away with points.
Baker attempted a fourth down play from the Benedictine 38 yard line and failed. BU also tried a fake field goal but the pass fell incomplete. Missed scoring opportunities was the story for Baker in the first half.
"We ran 40 some plays offensively and only punted a couple of times," Grossner said. "When we got on their side of the ball, we went for it on fourth down and didn't convert. We didn't score points."
Despite the missed chances, Baker only trailed 7-0 at the break. A resurgent Wildcat team emerged from the locker room and took control of the game with 22 unanswered points in the third quarter.
After a 24-yard field goal from Derek Doerfler, the Wildcats scored their first touchdown of the contest. Mack Brown found Hensley wide open in the end zone for a three-yard pass.
"We knew what we had to do," Hensley said. "At halftime, we made adjustments offensively. We were able to utilize our receivers and hitting on all cylinders."
On their next possession, Frank Owens rumbled in for a two-yard touchdown to give Baker a 16-7 lead.
The Wildcats then blocked a Ravens' punt, which was recovered by Collin Maguire. A few plays later, Marcus Nolan caught a touchdown pass from Brown.
"We completed the plays that we didn't in the first half," Grossner said. "In the second half, we made those plays. We got in the end zone and kicked a couple of field goals."
Benedictine came back in the fourth quarter with two touchdowns of its own, but it's two-point conversion attempt was stopped by Baker.
The Ravens final drive was ended with Allen's interception. Baker escaped on its own field 25-20. It marked the first time Baker had beaten the Ravens at home in nine years.
"We hadn't beaten Benedictine at home since 1998," Grossner said. "That was a nice win after we fell behind and regrouping in the second half. We sputtered in the fourth quarter, but came up with some huge plays defensively to get the victory against a good football team."
Brown threw for 296 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
"He played very well," Grossner said. "He made some great scramble throws. He stood in there and took some vicious hits, but got rid of the ball. I thought he played with a lot of toughness."
Baker will face a tough test this week on the road. The Wildcats travel to Lamoni, Iowa, to play Graceland University at 2 p.m. Graceland is ranked No. 16 in the NAIA.
"Our guys are a little sore," Grossner said. "I feel pretty good about this game. I think we match up well with them. They have a running back we need to tackle. He is 6-4, 250 pounds and very talented."