The Baker Orange

Football falls at Benedictine 35-31

Story by Chad Mullens, Writer

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The football team suffered its first loss of the season 35-31 Saturday at Benedictine College.

The Ravens picked off Baker passes and utilized a nearly flawless passing attack while having a limited run game.

The Wildcats, on the other hand, had their best rushing output of the season thanks to junior Adonis Powell’s career-high 192 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.

“He was determined,” head coach Mike Grossner said. “He played like he thought, ‘I’m gonna break some tackles today,’ and he had a great game.”

But BU suffered in the passing game with four interceptions on the day. Grossner could tell his players knew they had made too many mistakes.

“(Benedictine is) a good football team, and I like what I heard from my guys after the game. They knew it was a wake-up call,” Grossner said. “They know they cannot play that poorly and come out with a win.”

Junior quarterback Nick Marra had an otherwise great game, going 24 of 42 for 330 yards and three touchdowns, but his four interceptions thrown made the difference.

“He made some really good throws, but there were some of the easier throws that he normally makes that he just didn’t,” Grossner said.

But Grossner was disappointed that the team was unable to rally from five turnovers.

“You can’t play as perfect as (Marra) has for 12+ games and never have an off game, so we should’ve been ready and able to overcome those mistakes.”

After three consecutive blowout victories, Baker looked to be going in a similar direction against BC. Four minutes into the second quarter, the Wildcats had a 21-7 lead thanks to a 9-yard jump ball touchdown catch by sophomore Clarence Clark, a 16-yard Marra pass to junior Damon Nolan, and a 28-yard Powell scamper.

Then turnovers started to become a problem for Baker, with a fumbled punt return by Nolan and an interception by Marra, but the Wildcats were able to force two fumbles themselves, both with the Ravens just inches from the end zone, and the Wildcats maintained a 21-10 lead into halftime.

Just a few plays before Baker’s second forced fumble came the strangest play of the 2015 season. Raven quarterback Jacob Koester fumbled the ball, and the loose ball was picked up by junior linebacker Akim Francis. However, Francis had assumed the play was an incomplete pass, and did not attempt to advance the ball. Benedictine’s Jerome Roehm took advantage, ripping the ball from Francis’ hands and returning the ball to the Baker 9-yard line. The strange play ultimately did not bear any fruit for either team, however, as the Ravens turned the ball back over.

The Ravens only needed the first 10 minutes of the third quarter to get back in the game. After a field goal on the second BC possession of the half, Kenny Hersberger scored on a 92-yard interception return, which was followed by a two-point conversion to tie the game at 21.

Baker struck back with a 37-yard pass to Clark, the team’s leading receiver on the day with 112 yards and two touchdowns on six catches. He also had a 32-yard touchdown reception taken back in the second quarter due to offensive pass interference by another receiver.

Christian Haack then burned the Baker secondary with a 56-yard touchdown to tie the game back up at 28. Haack also had a 47-yard touchdown in the first quarter and finished the game with 132 yards on nine catches.

“He’s bigger than you think, and he has tremendous speed,” Grossner said. “When the ball went in the air, he ran by some guys, and by pretty good players at that.”

Baker began the fourth quarter with a 41-yard Abram Garcia field goal to take a three-point lead. The scored remained that way until Benedictine took its first lead with 1:13 left in the game, driving 84 yards down the field to go up 35-31. The highlight of that drive came from a Koester pass to Nate Nicholson that gained 55 yards on a third-and-20.

“I thought their whole success came from big plays,” Grossner said. “Our defense played well from every other perspective, but they got some big plays, which made the difference.”

Koester finished the game 18 of 26 for 278 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

“We were in control coming into halftime, and we had opportunities to win the thing in the third quarter. We just didn’t do that,” Grossner said.

The Wildcats’ final opportunity to score was squandered by a leaping interception by Shane Baumann. Grossner is determined to see whether his players can bounce back.

“We’ll test our character,” he said. “We’ll see if we come in to work tomorrow.”

BU will have its homecoming game at 2 p.m Saturday at Liston Stadium, taking on the 4-1 Peru State College Bobcats.

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