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Archive for Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Woodling: Props to Baker defense

November 4, 2008

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In more than four decades of writing newspaper stories about football games, I would imagine I've used an offense-oriented angle at least 95 percent of the time.

Offense - even the lack of it - seems to be pre-eminent in the national consciousness, whether it's football at the high school, college or professional level.

That notion was reinforced after I covered Saturday's Baker-Missouri Valley football game in Baldwin City.

When I came back to the office to write the story, I fully intended to mention the crucial role the Wildcats' defense had played in the outcome.

In case you missed it, with only 91 seconds on the clock, quarterback Mack Brown drove Baker 72 yards for a thrilling 26-22 come-from-behind victory over the nation's No. 9-ranked NAIA team.

Obviously, I would have to lead with the nerve-wracking march that culminated with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Tyrell Spain with about nine seconds remaining. But I also planned to detail the stirring defensive stand that gave the 'Cats a chance.

Yet by the time I had explained all the ramifications of the long scoring drive - including the role of running back Richie Bryant and the drama of a flag being thrown in the end zone following Spain's catch - I had pretty much maxed-out on story length.

So, figuring I owe one to Baker's defense, I'm using this space to make amends.

First, let me say that until that stirring comeback drive, Baker's offense had been ineffectual in the second half. BU's defenders had spent too much time on the field and late in the fourth quarter were gassed.

"It seemed like we were out there the whole third quarter," senior tackle Philip Weinmaster told me after the game, "so we had to dig deep. I figured we had to get a stop or we were through."

Weinmaster, a Free State High product, was referring to the game's defining defensive moment. With about 61â2 minutes remaining, Mo Valley was leading 22-19 and was on Baker's 10-yard line facing a fourth-and-inches situation.

A first down probably would have been fatal to Baker in that situation, so when Valley tailback Robert Holmes took a handoff and headed into the line, fans on both sides of Liston Stadium were looking nowhere else.

Holmes had a good head of steam, but when the Valley ball-carrier approached the line, he suddenly flew up in the air and pinwheeled down after a submarine hit from linebacker Spencer Curran.

Where would the officials spot the ball? Oooh, it looked awfully close, so the referee called for the chains and a measurement. Again, breathing stopped momentarily.

"I was praying," Weinmaster said, "thinking we had played too hard not to get this."

And, of course, Baker did get it. The chains showed the Vikings were a couple of hairs shy of a first down. Baker's offense took over and once again was forced to punt. However, BU's weary defense forced a three-and-out to set the stage for the nail-biting finish.

As usual, the headline went to the offense, but Baker's defense deserved just as much credit for the school's biggest football victory in nearly a decade.

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