With the exception of a loss at Drake University two weeks ago, its safe to say that McKendree University football coach Mike Babcock has been pleased by what he has seen from the Bearcats in the first four weeks of the season.
But fresh off a GLVC opening win over William Jewell College last week, the Bearcats begin the make or break part of of their season beginning on Saturday when they travel to Bolivar, Mo. to take on unbeaten Southwest Baptist University in the first of a difficult three game stretch.
McKendree (3-1, 1-0) will be on the road next week to take on perennial national power Indianapolis before returning home on Oct, 15 to take on St. Joseph’s, (Ind.) University.
“We’ve got a tough stretch coming up but honestly in looking at our schedule from here on out, there are no games where you can look at it and say we’re going to win that one. When you have the success that we’ve had the last couple of years, you suddenly find that you have a big target on your backs. We’re everybody’s big game right now,’’ Babcock said. “All we can do as a coaching staff and a football team is prepare the best we can to come out each Saturday and play four complete quarters of football.’’
Wildman, defense lead McKendree
Making just his second start, freshman quarterback Brandon Wildman threw for 271 yards and two scores, while the other quarterback in the Bearcats two quarterback system, junior Elcee Burke, added 56 yards on the ground as McKendree rolled over William Jewell College last week.
“Brandon’s coming along. He’s a freshman and he’s going to make mistakes. But the mistakes he’s making aren’t mental one us. It’s more a case of him overthrowing a receiver or his timing being just off. I really like his leadership ability,’’ Babcock said.
“And Elcee coming in gives us an added dimension with his ability to run the football. In terms of being able to hit the holes quickly, Elcee is probably as good as we have and him being in the game just gives defenses one more thing to worry about. To think about.’’
The Bearcats defense bent but didn’t break against William Jewell on a 90 degree day. All-American linebacker AJ Wentland was credited with 10 tackles and clinched the win with a late interception. Wentland was the GLVC Defensive Player of the Week.
“Our defense did and continued to do the job,’’ Babcock said. “We have a lot of experience on that side of the football and those guys, especially on the defensive line, just has a knack of putting pressure on and getting to the quarterback. They did a great job of that again last week.
Battle of the Bearcats
McKendree, which defeated SW Baptist 38-13 last season, will have its hands full on both sides of the football against the Bearcats. Led by all-conference running back Bubba Jenkins (579 yards, 8 TD’s) and quarterback TJ Edwards, the Bearcats are averaging 39 points in their first four games while giving up 30.
“Honestly, they are a lot like we were last year. They rely on their offense and they like to play at a fast pace,’’ Babcock said. “The running back (Jenkins) and Edwards are probably their two main threats but that have a lot of playmakers all over the field.
“On defense and I noticed this when we played them last year that they like to fly around and they love to hit. It’s their homecoming, they are 4-0 for the first time in school history and you know they’ll come out ready to play against us. We need to get off to a fast start and stay on top of them.