MARSHALL, MO. In an all or nothing football game, Baker University came up short when it counted Saturday night.
Despite three chances inside Missouri Valley's 20-yard line -- two of
which were inside the five -- Baker was shut out offensively in the fourth
quarter as it fell to the No. 13 Vikings, 24-12, at Gregg-Mitchell Stadium.
The loss clinched the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship for
Missouri Valley on its home field and dimmed the postseason hopes of the
Wildcats, now 6-4 overall and 6-3 in the HAAC.
"It was a very tough way to end the year," said Baker head coach John
Frangoulis of his team's first road loss of the season. "We feel good that
we were able to be one of three teams with a chance at the title in the
final week. It was disappointing not to win it, but I think when these kids
look back, they'll see the great things they accomplished this season."
Even trailing 21-10 entering the fourth quarter, Baker still held hopes of
its fourth come-from-behind victory of the season. Facing a fourth-and-four
ay the MVC 43, BU quarterback Levi Schuck scampered for a six-yard gain and
a first down to open the quarter. From there, Baker drove to the Viking 16
where Brant Brittingham's 33-yard field goal attempt sailed wide with 12:27
The Wildcats received a second chance when it recovered a Missouri Valley
fumble less than a minute later on MVC's 19-yard line. Schuck hit wide
receiver David Seibolt for a 14-yard pass down to the five, where running
back Howard Verdell carried for two consecutive short gains. On
third-and-goal from the one, Verdell carried the ball again, and fumbled the
ball while stretching out for the goal line.
Missouri Valley recovered inside its own one-yard line and advanced to BU's 21, where Joe Park booted a 38-yard field goal with 4:05 remaining.
"It definitely hurt us," Frangoulis said of the fumble, which was one of
five Baker turnovers on the night. "It's a shame because Howard made some
great plays for us tonight, and I know he's upset about it. It was just a
situation where he trying to get some extra yardage and they stripped the
ball from him."
A final opportunity for Baker came in the waning moments when
the Vikings turned the ball over on downs at their own 36 with just over two
minutes left. Schuck hit senior wideout Paul Thompson on first down for a
31-yard gain. Baker eventually turned the ball over on downs.
Missouri Valley quarterback Josh Cullen then took
safety to prevent any chance of an easy Baker score with just over a minute
"We never quit and that's been our trademark all season long,"
Frangoulis said of the fourth-quarter comeback attempt.
Cullen and hefty fullback Jervon Walton combined to do most of the damage
for the Vikings. Cullen, a sophomore quarterback, burned the Wildcats for
touchdown passes of 50 and 67 yards. Walton, a 6-2, 220-pounder, carried the
ball 31 times for 171 yards.
"We knew that preventing the big bomb was going to be big," Frangoulis
said. "Those plays really hurt us and Walton is just a big, strong back who
is hard to bring down."
Verdell led the Baker offense with 135 yards rushing and one touchdown on
25 carries. Schuck rushed for 41 yards on 14 carries and completed 15 of 35
passes for 247 yards with three interceptions.
With the loss, Baker will have to wait and see if its 6-4 record is enough
to advance to postseason. Besides Missouri Valley, Baker trailed two
other HAAC teams in Evangel and MidAmerica Nazarene in the NAIA national
poll going into the season's final week. Only the top 16 teams in the
country advance to the NAIA Playoffs, which would begin next week.
The conference's top-ranked team that doesn't advance to playoffs will
compete in a Dec. 4 bowl game against a team from the Mid-South Conference
at Southwest Baptist College in Bolivar, Mo.
Missouri Valley 24, Baker 12
Baker 3 0 7 2 -- 12
Missouri Valley 7 7 7 3 -- 24
MV -- Marion Clark 50 pass from Josh Cullen (Joe Park kick).
BU -- Brant Brittingham 28 field goal.
MV -- Anthony Dunn 24 run (Park kick).
MV -- Matt Baker 67 pass from Cullen (Park kick).
BU -- Howard Verdell 1 run (Brittingham kick).
MV -- Park 38 FG
BU -- Safety (Cullen tackled in end zone).