Baker football rolls past Braves in season opener
Baker University's football team got its 2011 season off with a bang Saturday night at Liston Stadium.
The No. 23-ranked Wildcats crushed No. 10 Ottawa University 41-16 in the Victory Sports First Down Classic. They avenged last year's 24-14 loss at Ottawa.
“We've been waiting a long year for this one,” Baker coach Mike Grossner said. “I'll tell you, that's a good football team over there. The first half was back and forth, but we rallied at halftime on both sides of the ball. We dominated up front and that's where the game is won.”
Baker shutout the Braves 24-0 in the second half as it took advantage of four Braves turnovers. Baker recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pair of Ottawa passes.
The Wildcats locked up the game with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Grossner gambled on a fourth-down-and-goal at the 2 yard line, while clinging to a 27-16 lead with 9:03 remaining in the game.
The gamble paid off as Scott Meyer scored a two-yard rushing touchdown. John Babb sealed the game with an 11-yard touchdown run with 2:53 left in the game. Babb was named the VSN Offensive Player of the Game as he finished with 190 yards on the ground and one touchdown, thanks to a 94-yard run in the second half to set the Wildcats up for a touchdown.
“We tired them out in the second half,” Babb said. “We knew all summer that our whole team was in pretty good shape. It was a great start to our season.”
Adam Steele, the VSN Defensive Player of the Game, finished with two interceptions and eight tackles. Linebacker Ryder Werts also recorded an interception. Baker held Ottawa to 257 yards of offense, while racking up 488 yards.
Baker led 17-16 at halftime, despite missing a field goal with seconds remaining in the first half. The Wildcats scored three points in their four redzone attempts in the first half. They made one field goal, missed a field goal, lost a fumble and threw an interception, but led 17-16.
Special teams were the key for Baker during the first quarter. BU took a 14-7 lead off a 62-yard punt return by Reggie Harris. Minutes before Harris' return, Tyler Hatcher answered an Ottawa touchdown with an 82-yard kickoff return to tie the game.
“Our special teams was huge for us heading into halftime,” said head coach Mike Grossner. “The way we came out after halftime really showed just how special this group is.”
Sophomore quarterback Jake Morse finished with 127 yards on 11-for-27 passing with one interception.
The Wildcats return to action next Sept. 3 at Liston Stadium as they host Peru State, the newcomer to the Heart of America Athletic Conference.