The 2011 campaign ended on a positive note for the Baker University football team as it won its season finale against Graceland University 50-14.
The Wildcats made a statement early by getting out to a 21-0 lead before the end of the first quarter.
“That was one of our goals, to start fast, especially against a good, athletic football team,” head coach Mike Grossner said. “Graceland has some good athletes and you don’t want to get them encouraged and going on Senior Day.”
While the ’Cats got off to a quick start, they had to overcome a big setback on the first play of the game.
“We ran back the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and got it called back because one of our players was celebrating as (junior) Reggie (Harris) hit about the 8-yard line,” Grossner said.
Sophomore Jake Morse then threw an interception on the first drive, but after that, the Wildcats took control.
Sophomore Scott Meyer got the scoring started with back-to-back rushing touchdowns. The Wildcats rushed for 268 yards out of their 351 yards of total offense.
The defense was not to be outdone, though. The Wildcats sacked the Yellow Jackets four times and recorded a safety on a snap through the back of the end zone to limit Graceland to -49 yards rushing.
Junior Ryder Werts forced a fumble to set up a 10-yard touchdown run from sophomore Xavier Lewis to put BU up 21-0.
“I’m really happy with our defensive as a whole,” Werts said. “We played really hard. We didn’t really have any mental mistakes.”
Just minutes later, Werts recovered a fumble for Baker’s second forced turnover in the game.
The Wildcats finished the season ranked No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin by creating 35 turnovers and giving the ball up just 10 times. BU’s turnover margin of +25 was nine better than Cumberland University (Tenn.) and Benedictine College, who finished at +16.
To put the icing on the cake of the Wildcats’ overall performance, freshman Andrew Kimrey converted field goal attempts of 41 yards and a career-best 48 yards, and made all six of his extra point tries.
“I mean, it was huge,” Kimrey said. “It was a really good confidence booster. It was a good way to end my true-freshman year.”
The Wildcats finished the season with a 7-3 record, and even though Grossner is disappointed his team did not qualify for the playoffs, he is already excited for next season with only 10 seniors graduating from this year’s roster.
“The expectation level is going to rise,” Grossner said. “I love this group. I think we have a great group of kids that will work hard in the offseason and we should come out flying next year.