Football wins fourth straight, beats Graceland 52-21

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Football wins fourth straight, beats Graceland 52-21

Story by Chad Mullens, Writer

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The No. 6 Baker University football team had its third straight blowout victory with a 52-21 win over Graceland University on Saturday night at Liston Stadium. The Wildcats remain undefeated at 4-0 overall.

The defense was once again a turnover-creating machine, forcing three in the first 4:23 of the game, all resulting in Wildcat touchdowns.

“(Dileel Bartley) was one of their top offensive threats, so when he was taken out, I think it jumbled them up a little,” junior defensive end Adam Novak said.

First, junior Nick Becker forced a fumble in the end zone that junior Kharon Brown pounced on for the first Baker score and his first career touchdown. On the ensuing Graceland drive, the last action Yellow Jackets’ leading rusher Bartley saw in the game, senior Tucker Pauley picked off a Myles King pass and raced 27 yards to the goal line to give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead.

On the very next Yellow Jacket possession, junior Darrian Winston intercepted a pass at midfield and returned it all the way to the 1-yard line. It took only two plays for junior Dalton Buehler to capitalize, taking an off-tackle handoff and putting the Wildcats up 21-0.

“Offensively, we struggled a little in the first quarter, but we were scoring touchdowns in other ways,” head coach Mike Grossner said. “Then I thought we got on track late first quarter and through the second quarter and played really well.”

They executed offensively and defensively throughout the first half, ending with a 49-0 lead going into the locker room. The defense finished the game with five interceptions, bringing its 2015 total to 16.

“It was a team effort all the way around,” Novak said of the first-team defense’s performance. “The D-line did our job, the linebackers did their job, and the defensive backs worked off of that, and that all resulted in a good game.”

In the second half, the reserves on defense gave up some big pass plays, giving Graceland’s quarterback King three touchdowns on the night. There were also several personal foul penalties, ones that irked Grossner.

“My big thing with my teams is finish, finish, finish,” Grossner said. “In the second half we played well for the most part, but then we had stupid personal fouls. I don’t care where you’re playing at what level, a personal foul is a selfish act.”

Novak agreed with Grossner.

“I think there’s always room for improvement, and I think there’s a lot of room for improvement from tonight, especially near the end,” Novak said.

Graceland was able to drive by running and throwing the ball in the second half, with 282 yards of offense after halftime.

The Wildcats’ lead allowed sophomore Logan Brettell to come in relief of Nick Marra for the third consecutive game. Brettell finished 7-10 passing for 58 yards and added 12 rushing yards on three carries.

“He was able to get in and get some good reps in live conditions and was able to move the team down the field and use his legs and made some good decisions,” Grossner said. “That’s what we want to see, because we’re going to need that young man.”

Marra did not see as much action due to the short fields and defensive touchdowns. He finished 15-26 for 172 yards.

Novak likes what he has seen from the starting quarterback.

“Nick can get the ball out so quick, and the offensive line has been able to keep him upright, and the offense has just been doing such a great job,” Novak said.

The 31-point victory did not come without its drawbacks, according to Grossner, aside from the mental mistakes.

“We got some guys banged up tonight, so we’ll see where we are tomorrow,” Grossner said.

At 4-0, the Wildcats are the only remaining undefeated team in the Heart of America Athletic Conference. They will take their first-place standing on the road to face Benedictine College at 1 p.m Saturday, in Atchison. The Ravens are 2-2 on the season after losing Saturday to MidAmerica Nazarene University 41-17.

Baker lost the last time it played in Atchison 42-28 in 2013. The Wildcats gave up three unanswered fourth-quarter touchdowns in that game.