The University of Missouri S & T Miners used a page out of the playbook of the McKendree University Bearcats a year ago when they rallied for a 34-27 win in Rolla, Mo.
That loss, one of only two suffered by McKendree in 2015, put an end to any hopes coach Mike Babcock and his team might have had for an at-large berth in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
On Saturday, the two Great Lakes Valley Conference foes will meet again — this time at the friendly confines of Leemon Field. And while the stakes aren’t as high for two teams with 4-3 records, the Miners enter the game better than they were a year ago.
“We got up 21 points on them last year and they had a punt return for a touchdown and a couple of 10-yard pass plays where they went around us, made us look silly and scored,” McKendree coach Mike Babcock recalled this week. “This year they are a better football team. They have a big play wide receiver and they are huge up front to lead an offense which leads the conference in scoring at 41 points a game.
“On defense they lead the conference in total defense, sacks and interceptions. It’s a very good football team we are playing this week.”
Building on last week
Looking at a third straight GLVC loss, the Bearcats thrilled a large homecoming day crowd with a pair of touchdowns in the final three minutes to score a 20-16 win over St. Joseph’s University.
Trailing 16-7, McKendree got a pair of touchdown passes from junior quarterback Elcee Burke, great defense in the second half and a blocked punt by John Alvin which set up the winning touchdown in the final 30 seconds of play.
Burke finished day with a career-high touchdown passes while former Cahokia standout Shayeen Edwards went over the 100-yard mark rushing the football for the third straight week. On defense, Tobias Cook and All-American linebacker AJ Wentland combined for 25 tackles.
“It wasn’t pretty but at the end of the day, we won the football game. That’s what matters. We made plays down the stretch when we needed too,” Babcock said. “We didn’t execute well on defense at all in the first half. I think they (St. Joseph’s) were like 6 of 9 on third and fourth down situations in the first half. And the one touchdown drive they had was like 16 plays for 80 yards. We needed somebody to step up and make a play and nobody did.
“But in the third quarter our defense stepped up twice after turnovers and stopped them in the red zone. That was huge.”
On the road again
Winless away from Leemon Field this season, McKendree takes to the road for two of its final three games. The Bearcats will play at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., on Oct. 29 then will be at rival Quincy on Nov. 5.
McKendree concludes their 2016 season on Nov. 12 when it hosts Truman State of Kirksville, Mo.