The McKendree University football team dropped a 35-7 decision Saturday on the road in Great Lakes Valley Conference action at Southwest Baptist University.
In a game that featured the Battle of the Bearcats, host Southwest Baptist used a five-touchdown performance from quarterback T.J. Edwards to help the hosts to their best start in program history. With the loss, McKendree slips to 3-2 overall and is now 1-1 in league play. McKendree will look to bounce back next Saturday (Oct. 8) with another road contest at the University of Indianapolis. Kickoff for the GLVC battle will be at 6 p.m. ET (5 p.m. CT).
“Southwest Baptist really came out firing on all cylinders early,” said McKendree head coach Mike Babcock. “I thought we didn’t do a good job of wrapping up on tackles, and that led to some big plays for Southwest Baptist. We also made little mistakes throughout the game that we were not correcting as the game went on. Southwest Baptist was able to take advantage and made us pay at times.”
Despite the fact that he exited Saturday’s game in the first quarter with an injury, senior defensive end Lucky Baar became the career leader in quarterback sack in McKendree history against Southwest Baptist. Baar brought down a scrambling Edwards during SBU’s first offensive series of the game for a seven-yard loss. That was Baar’s 39th career sack, breaking a tie with former McKendree standout Oku Satcher for the mark. Satcher recorded 38 tackles during his McKendree career from 1999-2001.
Senior linebacker A.J. Wentland finished the day with a season-high 21 tackles, which was just one shy of the single-game record he set last year for McKendree. Wentland had 22 stops in the Bearcats’ 2015 regular-season opener at West Liberty University.
Offensively, junior running back Shayeen Edwards rushed for a season-high 100 yards on 18 carries. Edwards also became just the 20th player since the revival of the McKendree football program to surpass 1,000 rushing yards thanks to a third-quarter run. Edwards now has 1,061 yards in three seasons with McKendree.
Southwest Baptist (5-0, 3-0 GLVC) opened up a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter when Edwards capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive with the first of his five TD passes on the day, a 20-yard strike to Scottie Wilson. In the closing minute of the first period, Edwards found Kendrick Payne down the left sideline for a 67-yard scoring pass, giving the hosts a 14-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Payne took a crossing pass and outraced the defenders to the end zone for a 50-yard scoring connection. Southwest Baptist then added to its lead in the third quarter when Payne caught his final TD of the day, a 19-yard hookup with Edwards and a 28-0 advantage.
McKendree then used a Southwest Baptist turnover later in the period to produce its lone touchdown of the day. Freshman defensive back Blake Benoist intercepted an Edwards pass at the hosts’ 36-yard line. Three plays later, freshman quarterback Brandon Wildman tossed a wide receiver screen to senior Tyler Brewer, who raced past three defenders for a 28-yard touchdown strike. Senior kicker Steven O’Block added the point after to bring McKendree within 28-7. Edwards closed out his big day for Southwest Baptist with a 12-yard TD pass to Wilson in the waning seconds of the third quarter.
Against Southwest Baptist, McKendree had five more quarterback sacks, giving the Bearcats 28 on the season. McKendree entered the game as the NCAA Division II leader in the category. Junior defensive end Darion Simmons (Peoria, Ill./Peoria) had 1 ½ sacks in the effort for McKendree. Junior defensive end Tobias Cook also had a sack against Southwest Baptist and finished the day with eight tackles.
Wildman threw for 174 yards on the day, completing passes to eight different receivers. His favorite target was senior wide receiver Sean Dowling, who had five catches at Southwest Baptist.