McKendree faces tough assignment at Division II power Henderson State

News-DemocratSeptember 14, 2013 

The McKendree University football team, which won its season opener 32-28 over Tiffin, will try build on that early success when it plays Henderson State at 6 p.m. Saturday in Arkadelphia, Ark.

The Reddies are ranked ninth in the NCAA Division II poll. They ripped Southern Nazarene 82-10 in their opener last week.

McKendree sophomore quarterback Isaac Fisher threw for a single-game record 375 yards in the win over Tiffin, breaking brother Austin's record of 299 yards set in 2011. Isaac Fisher's 28 completions also were a single-game record.

Junior wideout Dewayne Gatti also set single-game records in his first game with McKendree as he gathered in 10 catches for 201 yards. It was Fisher's 59-yard strike to Gatti late in the fourth quarter that gave the Bearcats their winning touchdown against Tiffin.

Today's game: McKendree (1-0) at Henderson State (1-0), 6 p.m. at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium.

Last meeting: Henderson State pounded the Bearcats 47-24 in McKendree's home opener last season.

Scouting the Reddies: For years, Henderson State has been known for its prolific offense. In their one-sided triumph over the Bearcats last season, the Reddies scored 40 consecutive points to wipe out a 10-point deficit. The leader of that attack, quarterback Kevin Rodgers, returns this season and will be a handful for first-year McKendree coach Mike Babcock's defense. Rodgers threw seven touchdown passes in the contest last season and passed for 468 yards and six touchdowns against Southern Nazarene.

Fisher bullish on Bearcats: Fisher said the Bearcats' offense is capable of clicking each game, and that its performance against Tiffin could be the norm rather than the exception. "We can definitely mix it up," Fisher said. "The new offense is going great, obviously. I feel like we can do this more often. I feel like if I make the right reads, if I do the right thing that Coach calls, things should come together."

Moving on: Babcock enjoyed the victory against Tiffin, but was quick to turn his attention to Henderson State. "Isaac definitely stepped up in the new offense," he said. "Throwing 65 percent and (having) 375 yards in the air is definitely a great deal for him. (But) now the focus is basically, 'Let's beat the Reddies. Let's beat Henderson State.'"

Notes: The game can heard live on the Bearcat Sports Network at Scott Cummings will handle the play-by-play responsibilities. ... Henderson State's Rodgers is a top candidate to win the Harlon Hill Trophy, given annually to the best player in Division II. It is the Division II equivalent to the prestigious Heisman Trophy that goes to the best Division I player. ... Expect Rodgers to look to his favorite targets: Robert Jordan, Israel Valentin and Dustin Holland. The trio combined for 11 receptions, 353 yards and five touchdowns against Southern Nazarene.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at or 239-2665.

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