Mustangs’ offense stampedes Baker
SIOUX CITY, IOWA — A solid offensive performance by Baker University wasn’t enough against the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ top scoring team here Saturday.
Baker’s 373 yards weren’t enough to keep up with Morningside College’s 565 yards from scrimmage. Throw in an interception and a blocked punt and the Mustangs routed the Wildcats 65-27.
“In the end, every team but one loses their last game,” Baker coach Mike Grossner said. “I felt like we didn’t give our best shot today. We fell too far behind and never made a stop.”
The loss knocked Baker out of the NAIA playoffs, while Morningside moves on to the quarterfinals this weekend. Baker finished its season 8-4, the second straight winning season for Grossner. Senior James Hensley was sad to see his career end Saturday afternoon.
“It was definitely a disappointing loss today,” Hensley said. “We had high hopes to go deep into the playoffs and we definitely had the chance to do it. We came out flat today and had a couple of mistakes early to let them get on top of us. After that, it was too little, too late.”
Morningside’s Ian Gilworth completed 23 of 27 passes for 384 yards and seven touchdowns in the victory. His counterpart, Baker’s Mack Brown, had another solid outing in his junior year by completing 33 of 49 for 274 yards.
The Mustangs’ Beau Kildow caught nine passes for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Two other receivers had touchdowns for the Mustangs. They also rushed for 181 yards and a pair of scores. They came in averaging nearly 50 points per game.
“They are No. 1 in the country for a reason,” Grossner said. “They are very efficient with the ball. They have many playmakers and they get them all the ball. One of their top threats got hurt early and that should have been to our advantage. Then they found No. 6 all day and we couldn't tackle him.”
Despite the prior knowledge of the Mustangs’ explosive offensive, Baker’s coach was confident in his defense. However, he was disappointed after the loss.
“Defensively, we gave up way too much to win a football game,” he said.
On offense, Baker was productive. Junior Richie Bryant rushed the ball 20 times for 85 yards and caught eight passes for 82 yards. Bryant scored all three touchdowns for the Wildcats. Junior Brad Fawcett was Baker’s leading receiver with nine catches for 55 yards.
“I felt like our kids on offense played really well,” Grossner said. “We moved the ball all day. We had to have some urgency late to score touchdowns to catch up.”
Hensley said the Wildcats’ offense had the potential for a big play all game long.
“We definitely had an explosive offense,” Hensley said. “We had the ability to move down the field at will. We really did. We had a lot of weapons in this offense. We had a great quarterback, running back, offensive line and wide receiving corps. This is probably the best offense Baker’s had in a while.”
It was the Baker’s offense that struck first Saturday. The Wildcats drove 84 yards in 13 plays. The drive was capped off by a 21-yard touchdown reception from Brown to Bryant.
However, momentum shifted soon after. Baker’s point-after touchdown attempt was blocked and returned 95 yards for two Morningside points.
Six minutes later, Morningside scored its first of three unanswered touchdowns. The Mustangs’ second one came one play after they blocked a Baker punt deep in its own territory.
“We didn’t get it done early,” Grossner said. “We got a quick lead and had the darn extra point blocked. Now momentum shifts, but we’re ahead 6-2. Then we had a punt blocked when they only rushed four guys. Those are things we hadn’t done all year. We never turned the ball over much all year.”
Baker scored its final touchdown in the middle of the third quarter to close the score to 44-24. Then the Mustangs added a trio of scores before the contest was over.
“It was one of those days where we couldn't catch up,” Grossner said. “There just wasn’t enough time left. We had to convert two drives late to even make it close and we didn’t do it. At that point, we had to go for seven points, instead of trying for three.”
Baker finished third in the HAAC and went to its first playoff game in 15 years, but that success didn’t surprise Hensley.
“That was the plan coming in here,” Hensley said. “Four years ago, we had one of the biggest recruiting classes ever. Then we had another big recruiting class my sophomore year. Coach Grossner had a plan. He put together one heck of a team. That senior class that started it all leaves it behind to the younger guys, who can hopefully make something happen in the future.”
Grossner hopes this season’s success and Saturday’s defeat will be learning tools for the returning players next fall.
“We have to get used to this type of ball game on the road,” Grossner said. “The only way you do that is play very efficient and don’t make mistakes early. Then you go win it in the fourth quarter. We have to learn from this and we will.”