Atchison -- Ranked dead last in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, the Baker University football team's struggling offense needed a jump start in Saturday's crucial conference game against Benedictine.
Scrapping its conventional I-formation set in favor of a three-wideout, one-back formation, the Wildcats new "fun'n'gun" attack passed for 322 yards enroute to a 16-12 win over the Ravens. It was the program's first victory in Atchison since 1992 and its second-consecutive victory over Benedictine.
"No, he's a lot better looking than I am," quipped Baker head coach John Frangoulis when asked if he was trying emulate the University of Florida's pass-happy coach, Steve Spurrier. "I feel great for our kids on the offensive side of the ball. They've been under the gun the last few weeks, so it was great to see them come through."
With the win, Baker preserved its chances of a HAAC regular season title and national playoff berth. If the Wildcats can win their next two contests over MidAmerica Nazarene and Missouri Valley, Baker can win its first share of the conference title since it shared the crown in 1993.
"This was just a huge win for us," Frangoulis said. "It's been forever since we were able to get a win in Atchison. It's put us in a position to control our own destiny."
Still, Baker needed yet another fourth-quarter comeback to seal its fifth victory of the 199 season. Down 12-3 entering the fourth quarter, Baker's offense had sputtered in the red zone by fumbling twice inside the five-yard line during the third quarter.
After BC's Justin Arnoldi booted a 51-yard punt, BU's offense began the fourth quarter on its 17-yard line. From there, the Wildcats moved the ball to its own 47 on three completions by BU quarterback Levi Schuck and a short run by running back Kalon Sales.
Then, on first-and-10 from the 47, Schuck found a streaking David Seibolt downfield near the BC 40. Stumbling on a slick Raven Stadium turf, Seibolt kept his feet after receiving the ball and went the distance a 53-yard touchdown pass. Brant Brittingham's made extra-point attempt made the score 12-10.
BU's offense struck again at the 8:19 mark of the fourth following a three-and-out by the Benedictine offense. Starting at its own 18-yard line, Baker put together an eight-play, three minute drive in which BU never faced a third down. Schuck capped off the drive with a five-yard bootleg run for a touchdown with 8:16 remaining to make the score 16-12.
"It felt great," said Schuck, who completed 22 of 36 passes for 322 yards and rushed for 40 yards on 17 attempts. "I was really excited about running our new offense, and I think it helped us a lot today. I liked it that I was able to get more involved in things."
The Wildcat offense still needed its help from its defensive counterparts, as the No. 3-ranked crew in the nation came through with two crucial stops in the final eight minutes to clinch the win.
After Benedictine advanced midfield, BU's defense held as it forced fourth-and-11 situation from BC 47. Raven quarterback Koa Bailey pass to Mark Hite was broken up and nearly intercepted by BU free safety Mark Emry, one of the NAIA's leaders in interceptions. Following a three-and-out by Baker's offense, BU's defense stood again as it forced the Ravens to turn the ball over on downs with a 1:51 left.
In total, Baker held the Raven offense, ranked No. 1 in the conference with a 422-yard average, to 44 yards on 30 plays. Benedictine accumulated only 208 yards total offense in the game.
Next week, Baker will host MANU at Liston Stadium in a game with major conference title and playoff implications. Kickoff is 1:30 p.m. The Pioneers enter the game 5-2 in the conference and 6-2 overall. Baker is 5-2 in the HAAC and 5-3 overall.
Baker 16, Benedictine 12
Baker 3 0 0 13 -- 16
Benedictine 0 12 0 0 -- 12
BU -- Brant Brittingham 30 field goal.
BC -- Cory Schrick 7 pass from Koa Bailey (run failed).
BC -- Jeremiah Richards 3 pass from Bailey (run failed).
BU -- David Seibolt 53 pass from Levi Schuck (Brittingham kick).
BU -- Schuck 5 run (pass failed).