The McKendree University Bearcats wrapped up their 2013 season in impressive fashion on Saturday night at Leemon with a 58-14 victory over Kentucky Wesleyan College at Leemon Field in Lebanon.
The Bearcats registered season high totals in points (58), total yards (599), rushing yards (461) and first downs (32) as they rolled to a 34-7 halftime lead and cruised to victory in the final Great Lakes Valley Conference game of the 2013 season. McKendree closes the year with an overall record of 4-6 and a 3-4 mark in the GLVC.
"It's always nice to end the season with a win, but I'm very proud of our total team effort today," said McKendree coach Mike Babcock, who wrapped up his first season on the sidelines with the Bearcats. "We fought back from an early deficit and grabbed control early. I thought we played hard on both sides of the ball, and the final numbers certainly showed that. We wanted to send our seniors off with a memorable night, and it was great to see them head off the field one final time with a win."
Along with the stout offensive numbers, the McKendree defense was just as impressive in Saturday's victory. The Bearcats held Kentucky Wesleyan to minus-4 yards rushing, and 174 yards of total offense on the night. McKendree also limited the Panthers to just eight first downs on a rainy and windy evening in Lebanon.
Junior running back Ryan Herring led the offensive attack for McKendree with a game-high 117 yards on 11 carries. Freshman running back Sharoid Roach had all 18 of his carries in the second half and finished the night with 87 yards on 18 attempts. Five different McKendree running back posted at least 60 yards on the ground against Kentucky Wesleyan.
The 461 yards piled up by McKendree is the highest rushing total for the Bearcats since gaining 391 yards in a 37-0 victory at William Penn University back in 2007.
Sophomore quarterback Isaac Fisher completed 12-of-16 pass attempts for 112 yards with three touchdowns. Fisher's third TD pass of the night, a 4-yard strike to junior wide receiver Dewayne Gatti in the third quarter, set a pair of McKendree season records. It was Fisher's 19th touchdown pass of the year, giving him one more than his older brother Austin, who held the Bearcats' record with 18 TD passes set in 2010. It was also Gatti's seventh touchdown reception of the year, breaking a tie with Brett Gross (1997), Tony Vail (2004) and Byron Gettis (2009) for the single-season record at McKendree
Fisher established single-season passing records this year with 189 completions, 308 attempts and 1,961 yards. Gatti also set season standards with 64 receptions for 837 yards.
Kentucky Wesleyan (0-11, 0-7 GLVC) took the opening kickoff and marched 53 yards in eight plays to take a 7-0 lead.
McKendree answered with an eight-play scoring drive of its own, as Fisher connected with senior fullback Chris Murphy for a 5-yard TD pass. The extra point was blocked as the Panthers still held the lead at 7-6.
The Bearcats took the lead for good in the final minute of the first quarter as Herring scored from a yard out to cap a 10-play, 75-yard drive.
On a third-down play midway through the second quarter, Fisher swung a pass over the defense to sophomore running back Branden Walker, who danced through a pair of tackles and raced 25 yards to the end zone for a touchdown and a 20-7 McKendree lead.
After a three-and-out forced a Kentucky Wesleyan punt to midfield, sophomore wide receiver Cameron James took a handoff on a sweep and scampered 52 yards for a score to extend the Bearcats' margin to 27-7. Murphy closed out the first-half scoring on a 12-yard TD run with 3:29 left in the second quarter.
James returned the second-half kickoff 52 yards to the Kentucky Wesleyan 44-yard line to help set up the Bearcats' next touchdown. Fisher threw his record-breaking TD pass to Gatti nine plays later.