With only one loss each in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, the dream of at last a share of the league championship is still alive for the McKendree University Bearcats and the Missouri S & T Miners.
On Saturday at Allgood-Baliey Stadium in Rolla, Mo., that quest will all but come to an end for one of those teams.
Looking to stay unbeaten on the road in this season, McKendree will be out clinch a winning season on Saturday when it battles the Miners in a key GLVC contest. Both the Bearcats and Miners enter the game with 3-1 marks in the rugged conference and trail undefeated Indianapolis (4-0) by one game.
“They (Missouri S&T) still have Indianapolis left to play so I’m sure they’re thinking they still have a chance,” McKendree coach Mike Babcock said. “As for us, we have no control of what Indianapolis does the rest of the season. We just need to continue to prepare well and work hard and continue to get better each week.
“I was pleased at how we reacted last week at St. Joseph’s (Ind.) after the tough loss to Indianapolis the previous week.”
But with each week comes a new challenge. McKendree was scheduled to leave for Rolla, (Mo.) early Saturday morning — a trip of about three hours — and will take on the Miners at 1 p.m.
“Why are we leaving the day of the game? Its easier on our football budget for one,” Babcock said. “We did it twice year last year as well and while we’re going to stop for breakfast, as a coach you are always concerned about if the players are going to be ready to compete once they get to the stadium or are they going to be sluggish after sitting on a bus.
“I’m thinking that we’ll be fine and ready to play when its game time.”
▪ Saturday’s Game: McKendree University (5-1, 3-1) at Missouri S&T (3-3, 3-1) at Allgood-Bailey Stadium, Rolla, Mo., 1 p.m.
▪ Last week: McKendree defeated St. Joesph’s 29-10; Missouri S&T defeated Lincoln University 40-23.
▪ Last Meeting: McKendree defeated Missouri S&T 27-24 at Leemon Field last year.
▪ Career Series: Missouri S&T is 2-1 in three meetings with McKendree University
▪ On the air: Today’s McKendree University football game can be heard live on the Bearcat Sports Network (www.mckbearcats.com/watch) beginning with the pregame show at 12:45 p.m. McKendree Sports Information Director Scott Cummings is in his 13th season of handling the play-by-play duties on the road.
Scouting the Bearcats
With its high-powered passing game held to only 94 yards, the Bearcats got big games out of former Cahokia standout Shayeen Edwards, who rushed for a career-best 87 yards while senior quartrback Isaac Fisher added another 55 yards on the ground. Linebacker Austin Weltha, who was chosen as the Great Lakes Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week, added a 45-yard interception return for touchdown while Cruz Navarro set up the game clinching score with an interception late in the fourth quarter.
“Our passing game wasn’t as effective as it has been and so it was good to see some of the other kids play well and us play well in some of the other areas of the game,” Babcock said. “Steven (O’Block) got us on the scoreboard with a field goal against, Shayeen (Edwards) ran the ball hard and had the best day of his career and the defense stepped up with a couple of big plays late in the game and played well overall.”
Fisher remains one of the top quarterbacks in the GLVC and has thrown for nearly 1,700 yards and 14 touchdowns. Senior Cameron James has 32 receptions for over 400 yards and five touchdowns but Dustin Walls (27 catches), Sean Dowling (26) and Darius Crochrell (21) have also had solid seasons.
Junior AJ Wentland leads the Bearcats defense with 86 tackles, including 43 solos.
Scouting the Miners
Missouri S&T relies on a diverse offense which churned up over 380 yards of total offense and six touchdowns last week at Lincoln University. Quarterback Lamar Wilkes and running back D’Luis West were each responsible for three touchdowns Wilkes threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns while West gained 82 yards and scored three times.
“They (the Miners) have a pretty balanced attack. The quarterback is a good athlete who can run the football a little bit, he’s got good receivers and last week against Lincoln they ran the ball pretty well,” Babcock said. “Defensively they’ll put a lot of guys in the box and they like to put on a lot of pressure.”