The McKendree University football brought its 2015 season to a close with a dominating 31-3 victory Saturday afternoon at Truman State University.
The Bearcats’ defense limited the hosts to just 175 yards of total offense while holding its opponent without a touchdown for the second time in the last three games. It marked a lowest yardage total that the McKendree defefnsive unit allowed during the season. McKendree finished the year with an overall record of 8-2, marking the team’s highest win total since 2010, when the Bearcats posted a 9-3 record. In addition, McKendree claimed sole possession of second place in the final Great Lakes Valley Conference standings at 6-2.
Senior quarterback Isaac Fisher closed out a stellar four-year career by throwing for 196 yards and rushing for a game-high 78 yards to become the first player in McKendree program history to amass 10,000 yards in total offense. Fisher collected 10,257 yards in his playing days for the Bearcats (8,508 passing yards and 1,749 rushing yards).
In addition to his career marks, Fisher set a new McKendree season records for total offense (3,595 yards), passing yards (2,792 yards) and touchdowns (21).
“This was a great way for our team to finish the season,’ said McKendree head football coach Mike Babcock. “Our defense got in a groove early and played one of their best games of the season. The offense was going against the top defense in the league, and were able to come up with big plays when they needed them. I thought we also won the special teams battle. Our team has made great strides since the beginning of the season, and I really feel like it all came together today”
Senior wide receiver Cameron James (Edwardsville) also put the finishing touches on a record-setting career for McKendree by grabbing three passes against Truman State, becoming the first player in school history with 150 career receptions. James also threw his first career touchdown pass against the Bulldogs, hitting sophomore wide receiver Girard Jenkins with a 32-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter. James was 2-for-2 on the day for 44 yards.
For the second consecutive year, junior linebacker A.J. Wentland established a McKendree season record for tackles. Wentland posted a game-high 12 tackles to end the year with 134 tackles, topping the mark of 132 he set a year ago. For good measure, Wentland returned a fourth-quarter interception 45 yards for a touchdown against Truman State.
After a scoreless first quarter, McKendree jumped out to a 14-0 lead by scoring twice in a two-minute span early in the second period. The Bearcats marched 51 yards in nine plays, and Fisher capped the drive by tossing a four-yard TD pass to sophomore wide receiver Darius Crochrell (Edwardsville) with 9:18 left the quarter. Junior kicker Steven O’Block converted the point after to help McKendree take a 7-0 lead. On its next possession, James took a handoff on a double-reverse and found Jenkins alone in the end zone for the 32-yard strike to extend the Bearcats’ advantage to 14-0.
The 14-point lead for McKendree stood until the later stages of the third quarter, when Nick Dolezal kicked a 43-yard field goal to get Truman State on the scoreboard and cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 14-3. The Bearcats struck just before the end of the period when Fisher and Crochrell hooked up for their second scoring play of the afternoon, a three-yard strike with just 3.3 seconds left in the quarter to give McKendree a 21-3 lead.
Wentland gave McKendree a 28-3 advantage with just under 10 minutes remaining when he stepped in front of a Truman State pass and raced down the left sideline 45 yards for a score. O’Block then closed out the Bearcats’ scoring for the 2015 season with a career-best 46-yard field goal with 1:22 on the clock.
Fisher completed 26-of-38 pass attempts on the day. He and James combined to complete passes to nine different receivers in the contest. Jenkins led the group with five receptions for 49 yards. Crochrell and sophomore wide receiver Dustin Walls each hauled in four passes against the Bulldogs. Sophomore running back Shayeen Edwards (Cahokia) added 67 rushing yards on 17 attempts for the Bearcats.
Sophomore linebacker Kyle Kirkpatrick (Civic Memorial) helped out the Bearcats’ defensive effort with seven tackles, while junior linebacker Brandon Moody chipped in with six stops. Senior defensive lineman Brett Pearman (Granite City) recorded a sack and forced fumble in his final game at McKendree, both of which came on the same play late in the fourth quarter. .
In addition to the individual accomplishments achieved by the Bearcats in Saturday’s win, McKendree also established new program records for scoring (388 points) and total offense (4,871 yards).