Baker rallies for upset victory
No more will Baker University football players grouse about the monotony of the two-minute drill during practice sessions.
Not after the Wildcats staged a dramatic comeback in the last 91 seconds to overhaul Missouri Valley, 26-22, on Saturday afternoon at Liston Stadium.
“It has gotten a little repetitive,” quarterback Mack Brown said of BU’s daily work on the hurry-up offense, “but after this I’ll never question what we do in practice again.”
Brown guided the ’Cats 90 yards in the waning seconds, hitting wide receiver Tyrell Spain in the right corner of the end zone for the final 23 yards with just :08.9 on the clock.
Two plays earlier, Baker had attempted the same pass play, but Mo Valley defender Correy Webb disrupted the flight of the ball just enough to break it up.
“Ty had him beat the first time and we just missed it,” Brown said. “Then coach said, ‘Do you want to do it again?’ and we did.”
Only 20 or so seconds remained at the time, and Baker was out of timeouts.
Clearly the safe option would have been for Baker coach Mike Grossner to send in NAIA All-American place-kicker Derek Doerfler to kick a field goal, forge a 22-all tie and take your chances in overtime.
That isn’t, however, the way Grossner plays the game.
“I’m a firm believer in going for the win,” the Wildcats’ fifth-year coach said. “And I felt they would be single-covering (Spain) again.”
Sure enough, even though Spain, a 6-foot-3 senior, had caught two touchdown passes from Brown earlier, the Vikings stayed in man-to-man with the 5-10 Webb once again handed the assignment.
This time, in almost exactly the same spot in the end zone, Spain leaped for Brown’s pass with Webb all over him and fell with the ball clutched in his mitts.
But wait a minute … a flag was sitting in the end zone, just a few yards away.
“I had a concern,” Grossner said, “because we’ve had a lot of calls go against us this year.”
Spain wasn’t worried, though.
“I saw the flag,” he said, “but I knew it wasn’t on me.”
He was right. The penalty was on Webb, and the Wildcats had knocked off the No. 9-ranked team in this week’s NAIA poll, not to mention winning their sixth straight game.
“This is huge,” said senior running back Richie Bryant, the leading rusher in the Heart of America Athletic Conference.
Bryant, who didn’t practice all week because of a knee injury, saw limited duty. He carried only seven times for 13 yards, but he was a catalyst in the ’Cats’ last-ditch drive with three receptions for 49 yards.
“Actually, it didn’t bother me too much,” Bryant said of the torn meniscus in his knee. “In fact, it’s getting better, and I don’t think we’ll have to do anything with it.”
Thus Bryant could be at full speed when the Wildcats (7-2) travel to Olathe next Saturday to meet unbeaten MidAmerica Nazarene in a game that probably will decide the HAAC championship.
Baker is certain to climb from the No. 24 spot in next week’s NAIA poll, yet the poll is really meaningless in the big picture.
“This game was a stepping stone,” Spain said, putting the win in perspective. “We still have a long way to go.”