College Sports

McKendree rolls to 68-0 season opening win

On one of the hottest nights of the summer, the McKendree Bearcats never broke a sweat Saturday at Leemon Field.

Former Edwardsville standout Cameron James scored three touchdowns in just over six minutes to open the game and McKendree never let up as it went on for a 68-0 win over College of Faith in the season opener for both teams.

James was on the receiving end of a 6-yard scoring strike from senior quarterback Isaac Fisher on the fourth play from scrimmage with just over a minute gone, as McKendree grabbed a quick 7-0 lead.

James then scored on punt returns of 48 and 71 yards, the second coming with 8:46 still remaining in the first quarter, as McKendree took complete control of the game.

PLAYS OF THE GAME

While the Fisher-to-James touchdown pass was all McKendree would need, it was the back-to-back punt returns which gave the Bearcats an early cushion and took the life out of the College of Faith.

Also one of the top 60-meter sprinters in NCAA Division II, James ran untouched on his first punt return, but was forced to break at least four tackles before breaking free on his 71-yard return.

“I was able to get in the end zone, but it took all 11 guys doing their jobs and executing on the returns to perfection,’’ James said. “This was a nice way to start the season. Our goal is to go 1-0 every week and tonight we were able to do that. Now we’ll get ready for next week.’’

TOTAL OFFENSE

While James scored three touchdowns in the first half, several other players added to the Bearcats’ point total.

Fisher added a 51-yard scoring run, Treye Williams scored on a 5-yard scamper and Myles Hammonds scored from 12 yards out. Kicker Steven O’Block booted field goals of 31, 42 and 31 yards to close out the Bearcats’ first-half scoring.

O’Block added a fourth field goal — a 22-yard boot — in the third quarter.

“I was concerned about our special teams, but tonight we get a pair of punt returns for scores and I thought Steven (O’Block) had a great night kicking the football,’’ McKendree coach Mike Babcock said. “They (College of Faith) were lining up their quarterback as their punter, so we didn’t know — on fourth down — whether they were going to punt or fake it a lot of times, and so we put our return guy back there (James) and he took two in for scores. It was very good execution.’’

COACH MIKE BABCOCK

“I thought our execution was very good all night long on both sides of the football,’’ Babcock said. “We kept our game plan pretty simple and I thought the guys did a great job of executing. This is a nice win for us. A lot of kids got a chance to play and show what they could do. But it’s going to get a lot tougher next week at West Liberty.”

STREAKING BEARCATS

The win over College of Faith extends McKendree’s winning streak to six games. The Bearcats won their final five games in 2014.

ALMOST A RECORD

The Bearcats 68 points on Saturday was the second most in school history. McKendree scored 69 in a win over Iowa Wesleyan in 2006

TOTALLY OVERMATCHED

Based out of West Memphis, Ark., the Warriors first football game in school history probably won’t be a happy memory. College of Faith was never in the game after the first minute and had minus 3 yards of total offense in the first half. McKendree had 216 yards of total offense and scored on seven of its eight offensive possessions.

College of Faith did not have a first down all night.

A SOBERING MOMENT

Play was stopped with 12:07 left in the first half when an McKendree alumni became ill and required medical attention in the stands just below the press box.

McKendree players dropped to one knee in prayer on the sidelines while university medical personal and paramedics gave medical aid to the fan, who was then transported to a local hospital. After fans joined in a silent prayer, play was resumed. The fan’s name was not released.

UP NEXT

College of Faith plays at Valparaiso on Sept. 19. McKendree plays at West Liberty University in West Virginia, on Sept. 12

Contact reporter Dean Criddle at dcriddle@bnd.com or 618-239-2661.

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