Bearcats can't hang with St. Joseph's in second half

Special to the News-DemocratOctober 27, 2013 

The McKendree Bearcats fell 31-13 to St. Joseph's on Saturday in a Great Lakes Valley Conference contest at St. Joseph's College.

The Bearcats overcame an 11-point deficit to pull within 14-13 at halftime, but the host Pumas posted 17 unanswered points in the second half to pull away for the victory.

Junior wide receiver Dewayne Gatti had his second consecutive big game for McKendree, posting game-high totals of nine catches for 110 yards.

Gatti has topped the 100-yard mark in receiving yards in each of the Bearcats' last two games after grabbing seven passes for 152 yards on Oct. 19 at Truman State University.

Sophomore quarterback Isaac Fisher threw for 209 yards at St. Joseph's, completing 21-of-34 pass attempts.

"We got off to a slow start, but I was impressed at how we battled back," said McKendree coach Mike Babcock, whose team dropped to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in GLVC play. "We made some big plays on both sides of the ball in the second quarter, and in turn that led to our scoring plays.

"We got out of our rhythm in the second half, and we couldn't convert the plays on third down when we need to do that."

St. Joseph's (6-2, 3-1 GLVC) jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the second play of its second possession when Kobi Cook broke free down the right sideline for a 62-yard touchdown run with 11:43 left in the first quarter.

McKendree took the ensuing kickoff and drove to the Pumas' 25-yard line. Freshman kicker Steven O'Block battled a strong crosswind to kick his longest field goal of the season, a 42-yarder, to help the Bearcats pull within 7-3.

Later in the first quarter, St. Joseph's put together a sustained drive and reached the Bearcats' 1-yard line. Quarterback Tate Borlik tried to run a quarterback sneak but mishandled the snap. The loose ball was recovered in the end zone by offensive lineman Ryan Laubauskas to extend the Pumas' lead to 14-3.

The Bearcats' defense help turn the tide in the second quarter, limiting St. Joseph's to just 30 yards of total offense in the period. In turn, the McKendree offense was able to strike quickly midway through the quarter to close the gap to 14-10.

After taking possession at their own 23-yard line with 6:52 left until halftime, the Bearcats needed just three plays to score.

Fisher scrambled for 13 yards on the first play of the drive before junior running back Ryan Herring broke free for an 18-yard burst to the Pumas' 46-yard line.

Following a St. Joseph's personal foul penalty, Fisher connected with junior tight end Zac Dixon on a 31-yard touchdown pass, and O'Block's extra point capped the drive that took just 35 seconds.

On its next drive, St. Joseph's tried to run a fake punt, but the ensuing pass was intercepted by McKendree junior Chase Alford at midfield with just over four minutes left until the intermission. The Bearcats marched down to the Pumas' 10-yard line, where O'Block split the uprights from 27 yards out to trim the deficit to 14-13 with 42 seconds left before halftime.

The second half belonged to St. Joseph's as Cook added a 19-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter and Borlik tossed an 18-yard TD pass in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. The Pumas tacked on a late field goal to close out the scoring on the day.

Junior tight end Reuben Bowlby caught a career-high four passes for 38 yards in the contest for McKendree. Herring led the Bearcats' rushing attack with 27 yards.

For the second straight game, sophomore linebacker George Hill led McKendree in tackles. Hill posted eight stops, while senior defensive back Tirell Anderson contributed six tackles. Sophomore defensive lineman Brett Pearman recorded the Bearcats' lone sack in the contest.

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