The McKendree University football team got out to a fast start Saturday afternoon on Senior Day at Leemon Field against Missouri S&T, but the visiting Miners used a big second quarter to register a 49-20 victory over the Bearcats.
Junior Matt Cole (Chicago, Ill./Curie) had a productive day for McKendree as he finished with 253 all-purpose yards against Missouri S&T, including a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter. Cole’s effort was just 16 yards shy of the program record of 269 all-purpose yards in a game, set by Brandon Murphy in a 1997 game against Olivet Nazarene University.
The Bearcats move to 5-5 on the year and 3-3 in Great Lakes Valley Conference play. McKendree will wrap up its 2018 season next Saturday – Nov. 10 – at Lincoln University. Kickoff is set for noon at Dwight T. Reed Stadium in Jefferson City, Mo.
“We knew going in that we would be facing a tough ball club today,” said McKendree head coach Mike Babcock. “They are a very solid football team and showed it this afternoon. We could not sustain our consistency for 60 minutes today, but we kept fighting and kept pressing toward the end.”
McKendree won the toss and elected to receive. The Bearcats then marched 67 yards in seven plays as Cole capped the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep to the left corner of the end zone. Sophomore kicker Josh Lazaro (Bradley, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) drilled the extra point to give McKendree a 7-0 lead just over two minutes in to the contest.
Missouri S&T (8-2, 5-1 GLVC) answered with a touchdown drive of their won on their first possession of the game to knot the score at 7-7. The Miners then erupted for 28 points in the second quarter to build a 35-10 lead heading into the halftime break. The lone points of the period for McKendree came at the 12:44 mark thanks to a 34-yard field goal by Lazaro.
After Missouri S&T extended its lead to 42-10 in the later stages of the third quarter, Cole registered his second touchdown of the contest for McKendree. He took the ensuing kickoff, found a seam up the left side and raced 97 yards for the score to bring the Bearcats back within 42-17 with 3:23 left in the quarter. It was Cole’s first career kickoff return for a touchdown at McKendree.
Lazaro closed out the Bearcats’ scoring in the opening minute of the fourth quarter when he drilled a 44-yard field goal to help close the gap to 42-20.
Senior running back Preston Thompson (Hazel Crest, Ill./Tinley Park) rushed for a team-high 71 yards on 14 carries. Senior quarterback Reece Metcalf (Mount Carmel, Ill./Mount Carmel) was 16-of-30 through the air for 198 yards. Senior tight end Zach Bobos (Lowell, Ind./Lowell) and senior wide receiver Josh Revay (Livermore, Calif./Chabot College) each had four receptions for the Bearcats. Bobos had a McKendree career-high 86 receiving yards, including a 47-yard grab in the second quarter.
Junior linebacker Ricco Gipson, Jr. (Godfrey, Ill./Alton), established a new career-high with 15 tackles against Missouri S&T. Junior defensive back Blake Benoist (O’Fallon, Mo./Fort Zumwalt West) and junior linebacker Kennith Wilson (Chicago, Ill./Simeon) each added nine stops, while Benoist also had a fumble recovery for the Bearcats.