The McKendree University Bearcats began a crucial two-game road trip two weeks ago knowing that they needed no worse than a split in order to be factors in the race for the Great Lakes Valley Conference football championship.
Following a 34-24 loss at the University of Indianapolis last week, the Bearcats return to Leemon Field for homecoming on Saturday still on track for a second straight winning season. But with a 1-2 mark in the GLVC and 3-3 overall, McKendree’s hopes of a league title and NCAA Division II playoff bid are all but gone.
“We knew coming into the season and looking at our schedule that the back-to-back games on the road with Southwest Baptist and Indianapolis were going to be the toughest part of our schedule,” Bearcats coach Mike Babcock said. “The game with Indianapolis had so many similarities from when we played them here last year.
“They had lost three games this year on the last drive of the game and we knew the game was going to be a grind going in and it was. With 1:52 left it was a 3-point game and like last year we start a two minute drive and they intercept a pass and score. We had our opportunities and it’s disappointing because our players worked so hard on both sides of the football. But it’s life.”
And with five weeks remaining in the season, life goes on for McKendree on Saturday when it takes on St. Joesph’s College. The Pumas enter play tied for second in the GLVC with a 3-1 record, trailing only undefeated Truman State. St. Joseph’s is 4-2 after a 27-17 win over Lincoln College last week.
“They (St. Joseph’s) are a good football team and they seem to play us tough every time we meet. Last year it wasn’t until the last two minutes of the game that we were able to get an intercepted pass and put the game away,” Babcock said. “On defense they play a 3-4 and give you a lot of different looks. On offense, they have a good quarterback and a couple of good running backs and wide receivers that can big plays if we don’t execute and tackle well. We’ve struggled doing that the last couple of weeks.”
Despite the loss last week, McKendree did have its bright spots. Freshman quarterback Brandon Wildman threw for 265 yards and pair of touchdowns. Wide receiver Sean Dowling had three catches for 99 yards and junior running back Shayeen Edwards rushed for 100 yards as McKendree finished with more than 400 yards of total offense.
But it wasn’t enough to stop a second straight loss.
Should McKendree win its last five games it would finish 8-3. That would give the senior class a 17-5 record in its last two seasons in a Bearcats uniform.
But for Babcock it goes beyond wins and losses.
“Part of it just being competitors. Being a competitor isn’t always about wins and losses. It’s about wanting to be great in everything you do. That’s part of our mission statement,” Babcock said. “Everybody is disappointed being 3-3 because we had such high hopes coming into the season. But we’ve got five games left and if we can win out we’ll finish 8-3 and that would be a really good season.”
After a tough loss against Missouri Baptist, the Lindenwood University-Belleville football team has its eyes set on an upset against No. 1-ranked Marian University. Kick-off begins at noon in Indianapolis.
The Lynx (0-5; 0-3 MSFA), dropped a heartbreaking 14-7 overtime outing against MBU last Saturday. The team totaled 220 yards of total offense and were led by Darrien Boone going 12-of-36 for 136 yards. Quentin Edwards had himself a game with 80 total yards and a touchdown.
Marian (6-0; 3-0 MSFA), stayed unbeaten in its last time out as they rolled past Taylor University, 48-14. On the year, the Knights are averaging 48.7 points per game on offense, while allowing just 13 defensively.