McKendree University freshman quarterback Brandon Wildman threw three touchdown passes in the first half and the Bearcats defense held off a late William Jewell College rally in a 28-14 win on Saturday at Leemon Field.
Making his second college start and first before the home crowd, Wildman wasted little time in giving the sun-baked crowd something to cheer about. The former Monticello (Ill.) High School standout hooked up with Matthew Cole on a 68-yard touchdown pass with just 4 minutes 10 seconds gone in the game.
William Jewell (0-2, 0-4) then quickly tied the game on a 98-yard kickoff return by DeMarcus Robinson, but Wildman, who was 17-of-30 for 231 yards in the first half., tossed a pair of scoring passes to give McKendree (1-0, 3-1) the lead for good.
Wildman connected on a 10-yard pass to Sean Dowling late in the first quarter and added a 50-yard hookup with Dalton Balster who juggled the ball for a remarkable catch then outran the Cardinals defense for a score and a 21-7 McKendree lead.
“The biggest adjustment has been getting use to the timing and the speed of the game. My high school coach helped prepare me for this in the way our offense was set up, ‘’ Wildman said. “The upperclassmen and the underclassmen here at McKendree have also been a big help in my period of learning as well.”
William Jewell held Wildman to just 40 yards passing in the second half. Trailing 28-7 with under five minutes remaining, the Cardinals cut their deficit to 14 points on a 30-yard run by Rye’ll Dydell and marched inside the McKendree 35-yard line with time running down.
But when senior all-American linebacker A.J. Wentland intercepted a pass from Cardinals quarterback Jared Hobby in the final three minutes, McKendree had the win.
The Bearcats defense wast brilliant when it had to be. Led by Wentland (10 tackles), Jabaree Winston (9 tackles) and Blake Benoist (9 tackles), McKendree allowed William Jewell to convert on only 3 of 21 third down situations while forcing three turnovers.
The played in 90 degree heat with both teams combining to run 185 offensive plays. The 97 plays run by McKendree is a school record.
“It was hot. Really hot. This was the first time I have seen the officials get another 1-2 minutes for water breaks between quarters,’’ Bearcats coach Mike Babcock said. “Our defense played great. There were a lot of players who were going down with (leg) cramps because of the heat. But our defense made big play, after big play. To hold them (William Jewell) to just 3 of 21 on third down is just really outstanding.
“I was really impressed on how hard William Jewell played. Those kids kept going hard up until the last few seconds of the game. The heat, I think, had an affect on both teams. You could see late in the game where both teams started to wear down a little bit.’’
Former Cahokia standout Shayeen Edwards added a 2-yard scoring run for McKendree which built a 28-7 lead late in the third quarter. The Bearcats also got 56 yards rushing from Elcee Burke and 49 yards from Myles Hammonds.
McKendree faces a major test next Saturday when it travels to take on undefeated Southwest Baptist University beginning at 2 p.m.
reshman quarterback Brandon Wildman threw three touchdown