Baldwin -- Mastering the art of fourth-quarter magic is an elusive practice.
After appearing to patent Houdini-esque escapes in two of its last three games, Baker University's football team finally ran out of clutch plays Saturday at Liston Stadium and thus found itself on the other end of a last-gasp comeback.
Leading 20-7 with less than half of a quarter left to play, the No. 22-ranked Wildcats surrendered two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the span of a minute-and-a-half and lost to unranked rival William Jewell, 21-20.
"You just canÃ-t make mistakes like we did at critical points in a football game," said head John Frangoulis. His team fueled William Jewell's comeback victory with two fourth-period fumbles.
The first of those turnovers led to the game-winning touchdown.
"I thought we had done everything possible to put ourselves in a position to win the game, but we never put them away. They just came hanging around and made the plays they had to make to win," Frangoulis said.
William Jewell's comeback began with just over a half of a quarter left when Jewell's Garrett Hawkins fielded Brant Brittingham's short kickoff and advanced to the 36. From there, the Cardinals drove all the way to Wildcat seven.
Set up by a pass completion from quarterback Manoli Potsou to fullback Robbie Robinson that went for 47 yards, William Jewell scored on the next play when Potsou connected with wide receiver Damien Couch with 6:59 remaining. The made extra-point attempt by Robert McWilliams cut the gap to 20-14.
After receiving the kickoff for its next drive, Baker faced a third-and-three from the 26 with just under six minutes left. On the play, the fullback was met by a pile of defenders, and the ball squirted out of his hands and rolled toward the right side of the field. William Jewell defensive back Roddrick Scott beat BU quarterback Levi Schuck to the ball and the Cardinals took over at the Baker 26.
A completion from Potsou to Crouch pushed Jewell to the 17 where running back Deeikee Williams punched in the go-ahead touchdown with 5:25 to go.
Baker had three possessions in the final five minutes but could not convert.
The last hope for a Wildcat victory resided in Brittingham's 49-yard field goal attempt, which had the distance but sailed wide left by a couple of yards. William Jewell took over and ran out the clock.
"There really was no other choice in that situation," Frangoulis said of the long field goal attempt. "He had made a 45-yarder earlier in the season, and he had the leg for that attempt. It was just a little wide."
The loss soured a solid statistical day for the Baker offense, which totaled 371 yards and held the ball for 33:17. Schuck completed 14 of 29 pass attempts for 194 yards, while the Wildcat ground game amassed 177 yards on 48 carries.
William Jewell, who could manage only 65 yards total offense as it was shut out in the first half, finished with 240 yards. Williams, the third-ranked rusher in the NAIA with a 168.3 average, was held to 82 yards on 23 carries but scored two touchdowns. Potsou, subbing for injured starter Travis Chambers, passed for 123 yards on just nine completions after totaling just two yards in the first half.
"This loss doesn't mean a thing for our season," said Frangoulis, whose
>team fell to 3-2 on the season and 3-1 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference. "It is just one loss, and that won't keep you out of the conference hunt. The big thing now is that we must regroup, which we will."
Baker travels to Culver-Stockton next Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
William Jewell 21, Baker 20
William Jewell 0 0 7 14 Ã³ 21
Baker 3 7 7 3 Ã³ 20
BU -- Brant Brittingham 26 field goal.
BU -- Kalon Sales 15 run (Brittingham kick).
BU -- Mackie Valentin 62 pass from Levi Schuck (Brittingham kick).
WJ -- Deeikee Williams 3 run (Robert McWilliams kick).
BU -- Brittingham 23 field goal.
WJ -- Williams 17 run (McWilliams kick).