Field goals boost Baker in overtime upset

Story by Chad Mullens

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With the offense stalling, Baker University freshman Clarence Clark had no choice but to kick a field goal from 59-yards out to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

“The reason we decided to kick was because I looked at Clarence, and he said ‘Let’s do it, I can make this,’ during a timeout,” Head coach Mike Grossner said.

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Clark, the Wildcats’ leading receiver, was neutralized on offense, catching only one pass for seven yards and carrying the ball once for a three-yard loss. But he more than made up for it kicking the ball. The freshman hit a pair of 50-plus yard field goals on Saturday, the latter of which won the game in overtime, as the No. 9 Wildcats beat the sixth-ranked Missouri Valley College Vikings, 13-10.

“On all of my field goals I try to focus in, and I try to have all of my land marks placed out,” Clark said. “I do (visualize before I kick), because if I see it, then I know I can do it.”

Baker had its lowest offensive output on the season, gaining a total of 162 yards on the day, which was no surprise given Missouri Valley’s top-ranked defense. The Wildcats recorded 66 rushing yards on 44 attempts, giving the Wildcats 1.5 yards per attempt, also the lowest on the year. The Wildcats punted a season-high 11 times, three more than their last two games combined.<br/>

“I thought for the most part, we matched them physically,” Grossner said. “I think if we came in and got punched in the mouth, it wouldn’t have been a good day.”

Baker matched the defensive effort, though, allowing just 295 yards of offense to the Vikings. MVC’s lone touchdown came on a short field following a blocked punt.<br/>

“Myron Tipton, Travis Ray and Nick Shondell all got a good push on the line,” sophomore Tucker Pauley said. “We came in with a great game plan and they really did a great job staying low and keeping their guys off of our linebackers.”

Even the offensive players could sense the focus of the defense coming into the game.

“I came into the office every day this week, and when I would come in, I would see every defensive player … going over every little thing, and then they played lights out,” Clark said.

Not only did the improvements come in the film room, but also on the practice field.

“We are really flying to the ball, we’ve been doing a lot of tackling drills where we just run to the ball, and that’s been helping us a lot lately,” Pauley said.

The game’s lone score of the first half came on a two-yard plunge by senior Dillon Baxter. Baxter finished with 70 yards on 25 carries.

Playing with a shoulder injury, senior quarterback Jake Morse threw only nine completions for 89 yards, with an interception and no touchdowns.

“He gutted it out,” Grossner said. “He made some phenomenal plays just recovering fumbles.”

One fumble recovery came following an interception to Missouri Valley linebacker Danny Reyes, who looked to be heading to the end zone until Clark came from behind and punched the ball out of his hands. Morse jumped on the ball at the six-yard line to regain possession.

“Jake made more plays than the stats will show,” Grossner said. “I think he gained confidence out of this game, and come next week he will be ready to start making plays.”

On Missouri Valley’s overtime possession, the Vikings moved the ball inside Baker’s 15-yard line before the referees called a chop-block penalty. MVC then moved back to Baker’s 31 on fourth down. The Vikings went for the conversion but came up short.

“That penalty came at the perfect time,” Pauley said.

This gave Baker the ball and a chance to win the game. On third-and-seven from the 22-yard line, a bad snap lost the Wildcats 13 yards. Clark had another tough field goal opportunity, this time from 52 yards out.

With the win, the Wildcats are 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference. BU is one game back of Benedictine College, the team responsible for Baker’s one loss on the season.

The Wildcats will be back home at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Liston Stadium to take on the Evangel University Crusaders.