When McKendree University football coach Mike Babcock began to prepare the Bearcats this week for another stiff challenge on the road at the Univeristy of Indianapolis, the message was “don’t let Southwest Baptist beat you again.”
One week after suffering a devastating 35-7 loss at Southwest Baptist, the Bearcats look to move forward and keep their hopes in the Great Lakes Valley Conference alive when they travel to Indianapolis on Saturday to battle the perennial NCAA Division II power beginning at 5 p.m.
“One of the first things I said to the team this week was ‘don’t let Southwest Baptist beat you this week.’ What I meant by that was that as bad as we all felt by losing the way we did and what it meant as far as the GLVC is concerned, we couldn’t let what happened in that game have an affect on how we played this week,” Babcock said. “The main reason is while Indianapolis is 1-4, it is still a very good football team. This is a new week and with one loss in the conference, this is a big game for both teams. We need to be ready to play four good quarters.”
Losers of two of its last three games after a 2-0 start, the Bearcats will look to get back on the winning track against a Greyhounds team that is in unfamiliar territory this season. An NCAA Division II playoff contender every year, Indianapolis dropped its first three games of the 2016 season and is currently 0-2 in the GLVC.
“Don’t let that record fool you. Their first three games of the year they had the lead late and lost all three on the last drive of the game,” Babcock said. “Their quarterback is a very good player and they have a very good defense. Plus we’re going up against a program which we have never beaten. It’s on the road and its their homecoming. We need to play well.”
The Bearcats performance last week at Southwest Baptist wasn’t without its bright spots. Co-leaders in the (Division II) nation in quarterback sacks entering the game, McKendree’s pass rush had five more sacks and All-American middle linebacker AJ Wentland continued to add to his school record by collecting 16 tackles. The offense, guided by quarterbacks Brandon Wildman and Elcee Burke, generated more than 350 yards of total offense.
But after 60 minutes of hard-nosed football, the scoreboard read Southwest Baptist 35, McKendree 7.
“If we had played our very best I think we may have beaten them. If we we would have played good, I think it would have been a much better football game. We did neither,” Babcock said. “We drove the football well several times during the game, but once we got in the red zone, we just couldn’t finish. We had a couple of field goals we missed and we had our receivers drop passes six times.
“Our defense had five sacks, but their quarterback still had five touchdown passes and 350 yards to a group of wide receivers I think are the best in the GLVC. And they are all back next year. I really have no reason why we played the way we did because I honestly thought we had the best week of practice that we had all year leading up to the game.”