LEBANON — And then there was one.
The last undefeated team remaining in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, the McKendree University Bearcats will put their 3-0 record — and an eight-game unbeaten streak in all — on the line when they take on Southwest Baptist University in their annual Homecoming game on Saturday at Leemon Field, beginning at 1 p.m.
Heading into what coach Mike Babcock called “the meat of our schedule,” the Bearcats are coming off another strong effort in a 41-23 win at William Jewell College in its GLVC opener last week. In that game, McKendree scored on its first six possessions to take a 41-10 halftime lead.
“First conference game, away from home and against a team which had played us close the previous year. I didn’t really know what to expect,’’ Babcock said. “From a coach’s standpoint, I thought in the first half we executed about as well as we have all year on both sides of the football. We scored every time we had the ball and the defense made plays for us as well.
“It was a credit to them (William Jewell) that they didn’t quit. They played extremely hard until the final play of the game.”
McKendree, which is 18-1 in homecoming games since restarting the football program in 1996, was led by senior quarterback Isaac Fisher who threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns. Junior linebacker AJ Wentland and Kyle Kirkpatrick led the defense. Wentland had a team-high 13 tackles while Kirkpatrick added eight stops and an interception.
But McKendree figures to have its hands full in its annual Battle of the Bearcats with Southwest Baptist. Southwest Baptist (2-2) has split its first two GLVC games.
After falling 26-24 to defending GLVC champion and preseason favorite University of Indianapolis in week one, Southwest Baptist routed Quincy University 56-33 last week as running back Bubba Jenkins set a school and GLVC record by rushing for 258 yards. Jenkins also scored five touchdowns while quarterback Trent Edwards threw for 186 yards and two scores.
“This is a very good and very well coached football team we’ll be playing on Saturday,’’ Babcock said. “They have athletes all over the field. Jenkins broke the league record last week, but their quarterback (Edwards) is averaging over 200 yards passing a game and another 100 rushing. They are averaging 50 rushing attempts per game, but they run a pro-style offense and are not afraid to throw the football.
“On defense, they have a 310-pound nose guard who can move well and so they are athletic on defense as well.’’
The Bearcats also must guard against looking ahead to next week when it will host Indianapolis in a much-anticipated showdown. Babcock said his team has been very good at staying focused on the task at hand.
“Maybe it’s because we’ve been winning and also because it’s something we really stress, but this football team has been very good about staying in the moment,” Babcock said. “We are preparing to play Southwest Baptist this week and it’s only Southwest Baptist that we’re thinking about.
“But what it comes down to for us this week and every week is execution. Do we tackle well, do we mix up the run and the pass well, are we able to move the football consistently ... are we able to not commit turnovers and is the defense able to get some takeaways. If we are able to do those things, then we’ve got an excellent chance to win the football game.”