The Baker Orange

Football ends with senior day loss

Story by Chad Mullens, Writer

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The Baker University football season officially ended when the Wildcats finished the final NAIA poll outside the top 16.

The ‘Cats fell 27-24 to Missouri Valley College on Saturday, 27-24, losing three out of their last four games after starting the season 7-0.

“In the first four minutes we threw two pick sixes,” head coach Mike Grossner said. “You can’t spot a national title-type team 14 points.”

After the two early turnovers, the Wildcats found a rhythm offensively led by the running game and senior Camren Torneden, who rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown on senior day.

“He had a good senior day,” Grossner said of Torneden. “He was cramping up most of the day, and he just kept plugging away.”

Baker managed to tie the game midway through the second quarter on a 20-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Nick Marra to junior TJ Holtrop, and a 1-yard Torneden run. Missouri Valley responded with a rushing touchdown of its own to take a 21-14 lead into halftime.

A rough offensive third quarter for the Wildcats, which featured a blocked punt by the Vikings, ended with the Baker deficit at 10 after a 40-yard Missouri Valley field goal.

The Wildcats answered back in the fourth quarter with a field goal by freshman Logan Brettell, and a juggling touchdown catch by senior Justice Berry to tie the game, 24-24.

“I believe that we might have been the better team,” Grossner said. “When you give them 14, and you turn it over (four times) and you’re still tied with a minute left…but we didn’t make plays.”

Marra bounced back from his first quarter turnovers, throwing for 187 yards and two touchdowns. But after a sack and forced fumble, the Vikings took a three-point lead on another field goal. On the ensuing Baker possession, Marra was hit again and the ball popped out.

The Vikings recovered the fumble as time expired, sealing the victory for Missouri Valley, which finished 8-2 in the regular season.

“I wasn’t disappointed in the loss. That was just two good teams going at each other,” Grossner said before learning of his team’s elimination from playoff contention. “What I’m more concerned with are the repercussions, us maybe sitting at home.”

A return to the playoffs next season will be a tough task, with two additions to the Heart of America Athletic Conference, including 2013 NAIA national champion Grand View University.

“Our presidents voted them in and we have to deal with it,” Grossner said. “It means that we’ll have to recruit hard and for depth, because right now we’re hurting there.”