For 58 minutes on Saturday the McKendree University Bearcats played one of the top NCAA Division II teams in the nation — University of Indianapolis — to a draw at Leemon Field.
But the three-time defending Great Lakes Valley Conference champion Greyhounds were in no mood for overtime.
Placekicker Brad Schickel booted a 36-yard field goal with 1 minute 58 seconds remaining to break a 24-all tie and defensive back Jamie Placht returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown 36 seconds later as the Greyhounds drove away with a 34-24 win.
In an evenly played game between the two top teams in the GLVC, the Bearcats (4-1, 2-1) seemed to have the momentum after senior quarterback Isaac Fis
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her directed a 12-play 76-yard drive which ended when Treye Williuams scored on a 2-yard run late in the third quarter to tie the score at 24.
But after two change of possessions, Greyhounds all-conference quarterback Connor Barthel drove his team down the field to set up Schickel’s game winning field goal. Barthel, who finished the day 27 of 36 for 246 yards and two touchdowns, converted on three third down situations during the drive as McKendree’s defensive line led by Lucky Baar and Brett Pearman couldn’t put any pressure on the Greyhounds quarterback.
Indianapolis converted on nine third-down situations for the game.
“We just couldn’t get any push up front,’’ Bearcats coach Mike Babcock said. “We knew that their offensive line was awfully big and very experienced and late in the game we couldn’t put any pressure on the quarterback (Barthel).
“You give a quarterback, especially an all-conference quarterback, that kind of time to where he can check off to his second and third options, and he’s going to convert most of those.
One last chance
Fisher, already a three-time GLVC Player of the Week this year, had one last chance to rally the Bearcats. Following Schickel’s field goal, McKendree took over on its own 20-yard line. Fisher was sacked on first down and on third-and-16, had his pass intercepted by Placht, who stepped in front of the Bearcats receiver for the score.
The interception was the first thrown by Fisher this season.
Playing the champs tough
Looking to take over sole possession of the lead in the GLVC, McKendree came out of the gate fast against the Greyhounds.
Utilizing its no-huddle offense to perfection, McKendree needed just over three minutes to march 74 yards for the first score of the game when Fisher ran 19-yards for a touchdown.
Fisher, who had his streak of passing for over 300 yards stopped at four, added a 60-yard run for a touchdown — the longest of his career and finished with 124 yards on the ground. Fisher also threw for 224 yards but was sacked five times.
McKendree also got a 24-yard field goal from Steven O’Block which tied the game at 17 at halftime and the two-yard run from Williams.
But still something was missing from the Bearcats offense on Saturday — the big play.
“We had some chances. We had a couple of passes dropped and Isaac (Fisher) made a couple of very nice touchdown runs,’’ Babcock said. “But we just weren’t able to get the big play with our passing game. Their defense did a good job.’’
McKendree’s big play receiver Cameron James caught just two passes for 28 yards and had one kickoff return for 19 yards. Junior linebacker AJ Wentland had another huge day with a team-leading 16 tackles for McKendree.
The Bearcats, who had their nine-game winning streak snapped Saturday, will return to action Oct. 17 at St. Joseph’s (Ind.) University.