Wildcats’ offense comes alive in rout of Evangel
Richie Bryant once again gashed another Heart of America Athletic Conference defense.
He carried the ball 21 times for 198 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Baker University Wildcats crushed Evangel at home Saturday. The Baker senior’s performance helped the Wildcats (5-2, 5-1) win 45-9.
“This was a nice win for us,” Bryant said. “We came out on that first drive and built up some confidence. We tried not to look back from there.”
Saturday’s victory was the fourth straight for the Wildcats, who last lost on Sept. 20 when they hosted Lindenwood.
“It feels good to win,” senior Tyrell Spain said. “This is a good team win. It helps our conference record, so this was really nice.”
Baker outgained Evangel on offense 551 yards to 187. The Wildcats also took advantage of three turnovers by Evangel, while only committing one. The turnover battle was the big key heading into the game, according to Baker coach Mike Grossner.
“I thought we were really business-like in the way we played,” Grossner said. “Offensively, we executed well. Defensively, we took the ball away. Nobody really knew, but we are No. 2 in the country in turnover margin. They are in the top 20 in the same category, so I thought that was going to be a key to the game.”
Despite winning the turnover margin, it was Bryant who got the Wildcats off on the right foot Saturday. He finished the opening drive of the game with a 5-yard touchdown run.
Bryant wasn’t the only Wildcat tailback to have a big day on the ground. Sophomore Blaine Crow carried the ball eight times for 64 yards and freshman John Babb had four rushes late in the game for a total of 26 yards.
“Our line is playing wonderful right now,” Bryant said. “It’s been blocking well all season. I feel like anyone can run through our holes right now. It’s wonderful. My eyes light up every time I see a hole.”
Baker was also highly successful airing the ball out Saturday. Junior Mack Brown had another solid effort as he completed 18 of 21 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. He did have one interception, but except for that play, his coach was very pleased.
“I thought Mack played well, except for one throw,” Grossner said. “Richie is just a stud. The guys finds the end zone and he makes great cuts.”
Brown found Bryant on a 10-yard pass that resulted in a touchdown. He also threw a deep ball to Spain for a touchdown. Spain’s touchdown was a 42-yard play and helped separate the game in the second quarter.
“The line gave Mack great protection back there,” Spain said. “We try to run good routes and give Mack a chance to make big plays. As long as you get open, he’ll find you.”
Senior James Hensley, junior Brad Fawcett and Spain each had five receptions in the win. Bryant said he is confident in the Wildcats offense and ability to score each possession.
“I’m so confident in our offense,” Bryant said. “I feel like anytime we have the ball, we have a chance to score. We are so balanced right now. We can run the ball or we can pass the ball anytime we want. When we mix it up, defenses have a hard time stopping us.”
It wasn’t all offense for Baker. For the third time this season, Baker held its opponent to single digit points. Baker turned its two interceptions and one fumble into points.
“I thought if we could force them to throw, we would play well in the secondary and we did,” Grossner said. “Once we pick it off, we have a chance to go to the end zone. We got one called back. Our guys are such threats with the ball in their hands that’s it’s exciting to watch.”
Defensively, the Wildcats were led by sophomore defensive back Colton Miller, who had 13 tackles. Junior lineman Levi Calhoun had 11 tackles.
“They were hurting up front,” Grossner said. “We knew they were missing two starters on the offensive line. I think that allowed us to rush four a lot and allow our secondary to make a lot of plays.”
Baker will travel to Fayette, Mo., to play its next HAAC game against Central Methodist. The kick off is set for 6 p.m. against the 2-5 (2-4) Eagles.
“It will be a really tough game,” Grossner said. “They are very difficult down there. It’s a long road trip. They played MidAmerica 27-24 two weeks ago. We’ve just got to stay focused and play one game and one half at a time.”