Wildcats ready to start HAAC season
After the drubbing his team took against Tennessee-Martin Saturday, Baker University football coach Mike Grossner is ready to start the conference season this weekend.
Baker will begin the Heart of America Athletic Conference action Saturday at Culver-Stockton College. The kickoff is 1 p.m. in Canton, Mo.
"We can't wait to get the conference season started Saturday," Grossner said. "We're now prepared to go to Culver-Stockton, because we took a long road trip on Saturday. This will be our longest trip during the conference season."
On Saturday, the Wildcats lost 56-0 to the NCAA Div. I-AA Skyhawks to begin the season 0-1. Although the Wildcats were routed, Grossner didn't believe the final score represented his team's performance.
"If you watch the tape, you can see that we competed hard, which I was very proud of the kids for doing," Grossner said. "We're not as bad as the score looks and they're a pretty good football team. They will contend for the Ohio Valley (conference) championship."
Both teams exchanged possessions to begin the game, before the Skyhawks ended the scoreless tie. Two plays before they scored, Baker senior Eric Allen intercepted a pass deep in the Wildcats' own territory. The interception was called back because of an offsides call on Baker.
Baker drove its next possession near midfield and went for a long pass on a third down. However the pass just sailed over the receiver's head. On the ensuing punt, the Skyhawks returned it 73 yards for their second touchdown in less than three minutes.
"That was a 14-point momentum swing right at the end of the first quarter," Grossner said. "It really affected us emotionally, as well as on the scoreboard."
Tennessee-Martin scored touchdowns on its next three offensive possessions, taking a 35-0 lead before halftime.
"They found something they exploited on us with a tight end," Grossner said. "They had some big plays out of that."
Baker then drove the ball 85 yards in 14 plays in the final three minutes of the half. A field goal attempt by Derek Doerfler was blocked - keeping the Wildcats scoreless.
"We had three scoring chances, but were unable to convert any points," Grossner said. "We had a field goal attempt that was blocked. We had missed opportunities, then things kind of steamrolled."
The Skyhawks added 21 more points in the second half as Baker was unable to get much of its offense going. Despite the tough loss, Grossner said his team learned a lot and found some areas that need improving before starting the HAAC season.
"Yeah, we're embarrassed that we put up a goose egg and allowed that many points," Grossner said. "Yeah, our egos are bruised. There is no doubt about that. That's the game of football, which can be very humbling at times."
"We'd do it again, because I think it was a good experience," he said. "In a game like that, they kind of expose some areas that we need to work on. If our kids take it to heart and try to get better on those weaknesses, we'll take a lot out of that game. The one big negative is we lost Andrew Patch (defensive end) for the season. He broke his foot early in the game."
This week, the Wildcats have been trying to fix those areas that were exposed Saturday. Grossner and his staff are hoping this week's conference opener produces better results.
"Offensively, we've been working on situational things, like converting third downs and field goals," Grossner said. "We have the best kicker in the nation and we need to utilize him. Defensively, we are working on assignment type stuff, because when you are getting beat pretty good in a game, you start to forget simple team things and play on your own. We're trying to stress team defense. Our big concentration as a team is getting points and finishing the job offensively."