There were plenty of record-setting efforts to go around as the McKendree University football team posted a 41-14 victory Saturday at home against Truman State University in the Bearcats’ regular-season finale.
In the process, McKendree earned its fifth consecutive win to move to 8-3 overall and 6-2 in Great Lakes Valley Conference action. During their five-game win streak, the Bearcats have averaged 38.2 points per contest. Also, the win denied Truman State a chance at an undefeated GLVC slate and its first outright league title. The Bulldogs will share the GLVC regular-season crown with Southwest Baptist University, which posted a 50-12 win Saturday afternoon against Lincoln University.
Senior defensive end Lucky Baar collected the biggest record of the day with his sack of Truman State quarterback Jaden Barr on a third-down play midway through the second quarter. That pushed Baar’s career total to 46 ½ sacks, which made him the NCAA Division II career leader in quarterback sacks. Marc Schieckl, who played at Colorado School of Mines from 2007-10, held the previous record of 46.
“It was great to see Lucky get that sack,” said McKendree head football coach Mike Babcock. “This is a guy who has meant so much not only to our defensive unit, but to our football program as a whole. He played with his motor running all the time, and it’s great to see his hard work rewarded in this fashion.”
As a team, McKendree set a new program mark by blocking three punts in Saturday’s win. Two of the blocks that came in the first half led to 10 points for the Bearcats. Also, the three blocked punts gives McKendree six combined blocks for the season (kicks and punts), which is a new school mark.
Junior defensive back Derrick Curry joined the party as he added a school-record 90-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the second half. It is the second straight week that Curry – the reigning GLVC Special Teams Player of the Week – brought a punt back for a score. He had a 64-yard return for a TD last week at Quincy University.
Also on special teams, senior kicker Steven O’Block established one new season record and tied another one during the Bearcats’ victory over Truman State. O’Block booted a pair of field goals on Saturday, giving him 15 for the year. That breaks the old McKendree record of 14 field goals, which was set back in 2001 by Brian Schneider. O’Block also boosted his season scoring total to 81 points, which ties the Bearcats’ record for scoring by a kicker in a single season. Jordan Fark registered 81 points back in 2010.
Not to be outdone, senior linebacker A.J. Wentland broke his McKendree single-season tackles record for the third consecutive year. Wentland notched 11 tackles against the Bulldogs to give him 144 on the year. That is nine more than his year-old school mark of 135 stops. The 11 tackles also gives Wentland 420 total tackles in his four-year career, which is a school record.
“This is the time of year you want to be playing your best football, and our guys have really hit their stride right now,” said Babcock. “More importantly, we excelled in all three phases of the game today and beat an extremely talented Truman State team. They have led the conference for most of this season, and our guys were focused on playing their best football today.”
Junior running back Preston Thompson rushed for a career-high 131 yards on Saturday, and his 66-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter gave McKendree a 7-0 lead. Later in the period, junior defensive back Jordan Osborne (Homewood, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor) broke through the Truman State line and blocked the first punt of the day for McKendree, giving the Bearcats’ possession at the Bulldogs’ 34-yard line. O’Block capped the short drive with his first field goal of the afternoon, a 32-yarder with 1:18 left in the opening quarter for a 10-0 McKendree advantage.
Early in the second quarter, sophomore quarterback Reece Metcalf capped a 78-yard, 12-play drive when he connected with senior wide receiver Sean Dowling on an eight-yard touchdown pass. O’Block’s extra point stretched the Bearcats’ lead to 17-0.
Truman State (8-3, 7-1 GLVC) answered quickly as Lawrence Woods fielded the ensuing kickoff and raced 96 yards for a touchdown to trim the McKendree advantage to 17-7. Junior linebacker Austin Weltha provided the second blocked punt against the Bulldogs with just under three minutes left until halftime. Sophomore linebacker John Alvin III (Belleville East) scooped up Weltha’s block and rambled 14 yards down to the Truman State 11-yard line. Three plays later, junior running back Shayeen Edwards (Cahokia) scored from four yards out to give McKendree a 24-7 lead it would take into the locker room.
After McKendree forced a three-and-out by Truman State to open the second half, Curry fielded a punt at the Bearcats’ 10-yard line and eluded several tacklers on his way to his 90-yard punt return for a touchdown. Curry surpassed the 84-yard punt return for a score that Adam Clapp registered in a 2004 game against Quincy. O’Block split the uprights to push the Bearcats’ lead to 31-7. O’Block drilled his record-breaking 15th field goal of the season later in the third quarter for a 34-7 McKendree cushion.
Metcalf threw his second touchdown pass of the day early in the fourth quarter – a 19-yard connection with sophomore wide receiver Jalyn Williams — to cap the Bearcats’ scoring for the afternoon. Metcalf finished the day by completing 16-of-23 pass attempts for 157 yards. He completed passes to nine different receivers, including four to junior wide receiver Darius Crochrell (Edwardsville).
McKendree registered three quarterback sacks on the day, extending their season record to 52 on the year. Junior defensive linemen Darion Simmons and Tobias Cook joined Baar with one sack each in the victory.
The NCAA Division II Football Selection Show will air live on Sunday at 4 p.m. CST on the NCAA website at www.ncaa.com.