College Sports

McKendree faces major road test at William Jewell College

For the McKendree College Bearcats, the road to the Great Lakes Valley Conference football championship is about to begin.

Fresh off a thrilling come-from-behind 27-24 win over nonconference foe Northwood University a week ago, the Bearcats (2-0) open GLVC play Saturday when they travel to Liberty, Mo., to play William Jewell College.

Led by a pair of touchdown passes from back-to-back GLVC offensive player of the week Isaac Fisher to senior Cameron James, the Bearcats rallied from a 24-13 fourth-quarter deficit a week ago to run their two-year winning streak to seven games.

But more importantly for coach Mike Babcock’s team, it passed a major test for the second straight week.

After going on the road in week one to beat ]West Liberty University, the Bearcats showed the ability to make big plays when they needed them the most against Northwood.

“That was probably one of the most important parts that we took away from last week. We didn’t play great. We turned the ball over a couple of times. But when we were down and needed to make plays to get back in the game, we were able to make them — on both sides of the football,’’ Babcock said. “We didn’t panic. We were able to stay poised and just execute.’’

“This is important because now if we fall behind late in a game again, we have the confidence to know that we can come back.’’

SATURDAY’S GAME: McKendree University (2-0, 0-0) at William Jewell College (0-3, 0-1), at Greene Stadium in Liberty, Mo., Noon.

LAST WEEK: McKendree defeated Northwood University 27-24; William Jewell lost to St. Joseph’s (Ind.) 34-9

LAST MEETING: McKendree defeated William Jewell 41-20 at Leemon Field in Lebanon last year.

SERIES: McKendree has defeated William Jewell in all three previous meetings between the schools.

PLAYERS TO WATCH FOR MCKENDREE: QB Isaac Fisher (56-of-80 for 722 yards, 9 TDs; 26 rushing attempts, 201 yards); WR: Dustin Walls (12 catches for 216 yards, 3 TDs); WR: Cameron James (11 catches for 139 yards, 3 TDs); LB: AJ Wentland (35 tackles, 18 solos); DB: Cruz Navarro (16 tackles, 10 solos)

BABCOCK ON WILLIAM JEWELL: Now in his third year at McKendree, Babock isn’t taking the winless Cardinals lightly. William Jewell, although outscored 46-120 in its first three games, is a team which can be dangerous — especially on its home field.

“Ask (University of ) Indianapolis about William Jewell,” Babcock said. “The week after we beat William Jewell last year they turned around and beat the conference champions Indianapolis and knocked them out of the NCAA Division II playoffs. In this league, anything can happen every week.

“They (William Jewell) no doubt remembers that we beat them here last year and at 0-3 they’re desperate for a win. On the road, we’ll have to play good football on Saturday to come away with a win.’’

UP NEXT: McKendree returns home for its next two games. The Bearcats will take on GLVC foes Southwest Baptist on Oct. 3 and then will host perennial conference power Indianapolis on Oct. 10. Both games will be played at Leemon Field beginning at 1 p.m.

ON THE AIR: The McKendree University football game can be heard live on the Bearcat Sports Network ( with the pregame show beginning 15 minutes prior to kickoff. McKendree Sports Information Director Scott Cummings will call the game.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean