Sports

Bearcats looks to rebound against St. Joseph’s

After playing the top team in the Great Lakes Valley Conference — and one of the the top NCAA Division II programs in the Midwest — to a draw for 58 minutes last week, the McKendree University Bearcats saw their dreams of an undefeated season end in the final two minutes as the University of Indianapolis scored twice in a 34-24 win.

And while the loss also ended the Bearcats nine-game winning streak over the last years, the Bearcats remain in the thick of the GLVC race, trailing Indianapolis by a game but still with five conference contests remaining on their 2015 slate.

“Tied with the best team in the conference with two minutes left. We had a shot and to come up short. Yes, it hurts,” McKendree coach Mike Babcock said. “I was upset, the coaching staff was upset and, of course, the players were upset.

“But its like I told the team after the game. The season is just at the midway point. We have five games left and how we come back and play these next five weeks will define what kind of football team we will be. We can’t control what Indianapolis does the rest of the season. What we can control is how we play each week and judging but the character of this football team, I know we’ll continue to come out and play hard for 60 minutes each week the rest of the season.”

The Bearcats begin the second half of the season on Saturday when they travel to Rensselaer, Ind., to battle the St. Joseph’s College Pumas at Alumni Stadium. The game will be the first of two straight road games for McKendree, who then travel to Missouri S & T on Oct. 24.

▪ Saturday’s Game: McKendree University (4-1, 2-1) at St. Joseph’s (Ind.) College (3-3, 2-2), Noon.

▪ Last week: Indianapolis defeated McKendree 34-24; St. Joseph’s defeated Lincoln (Mo.) University 42-14.

▪ Rankings: Neither the McKendree University Bearcats or St. Joseph’s College Pumas are ranked.

▪ Last meeting: St. Joseph’s rallied to defeat McKendree 35-33 last year at Leemon Field.

▪ On the air: The McKendree University football game can be heard live on the Bearcat Sports Network (www.mckbearcats.com/watch) beginning at 11:45 a.m. The versatile Scott Cummings will handle the play-by-play duties and he is in his 13th season of doing McKendree games on the road.

Scouting the Bearcats

A three-time GLVC offensive player of the week this season, Bearcats quarterback Isaac Fisher had his streak of four straight games of throwing for over 300 yards snapped last week with his 224-yard effort but did rush for a career high 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The record-setting Fisher has thrown for over 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns this season with just one interception while rushing for 416 yards and five scores. Fisher’s 60-yard touchdown run last week was a career best.

Senior Cameron James (29 catches for 392 yards and five touchdowns) is the Bearcats top wide receiver while Sean Dwling (23 catches), Dustin Walls (21) and Darius Crochrell (21) are other top receivers.

On defense, junior linebacker AJ Wentland (74 tackles, 34 solos) leads the way which bookend defensive ends Lucky Baar and Brett Pearman each have a 8 1/2 sacks.

Scouting the Pumas

Currently 3-3, the athletic Pumas look to continue their domination of the Bearcats on Saturday. St. Joseph’s has beaten McKendree all three times — outscoring the Bearcats 80-65 in those three wins.

Last week in its win over Lincoln, the Pumas received yards through the air from quarterback Wade Burton and 91 yards and a pair of touchdowns from running back Kobi Cook.

“They do a lot of shifting, a lot of movement and rotation on both sides of the football. We have to be aware of that and be able to plug the gaps,” Babcoock said. “Their quarterback (Burton) is an athletic player who is agile and moves well. In a way he’s like the quarterback we just played againsty from Indianapolis. Defensively, again they use a of movement and they bring a lot of pressure. They’re not as big as Indianapolis up front, but their are athletic and they can move pretty good.”

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean

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