KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A busy month of September will have a top of the table clash highlight week five of play as #9 Baker hosts #5 Missouri Valley in the Heart of America Athletic Conference Game of the Week.
The Matchup: #5 Missouri Valley (3-0, 2-0 HAAC) at #9 Baker (4-0, 3-0 HAAC), Emil Liston Stadium, Baldwin City, Kan., 6:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: Missouri Valley leads, 24-18-3
Last Season: Missouri Valley 38, Baker 7 (Sept. 24, 2011 - Marshall, Mo.)
Last Time Out: Missouri Valley 55, Avila 6; Baker 24, Central Methodist 14
About the Vikings: There would be no letdown from Missouri Valley after their dominating victory over MidAmerica Nazarene two weeks ago as the Vikings jumped out to a 48-0 halftime lead over Avila. The Vikings piled up 458 yards with 326 of those coming through the air, showing off a greatly-improved passing attack. Bruce Reyes was almost perfect in the game, going 14-of-16 for 223 yards and two TDs before taking a seat on the sidelines. About the only thing that wasn't at peak performance levels was a penalty total of 11 flags for 89 yards. Don't expect head coach Paul Troth to overlook that fact heading into a game where any mistake can make the difference between first place and a one-game deficit in the standings. The defense continued to set the tone as they forced four turnovers that included a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown by Rahfee McClee. The Vikings have been able to work in a number of additional players, adding to an already deep squad that has dominated the line of scrimmage the last two weeks and will be looking to do the same against a talented Baker offensive line. The Vikings are allowing just 8.7 points per game, just over what they allowed the Wildcats in a convincing victory in Marshall last season.
About the Wildcats: More than a few Baker fans must have been surprised to see Jake Morse lead the Baker offense on the field last week against Central Methodist three weeks after suffering what even his head coach expected to be a season-ending knee injury. Instead, the defending HAAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year threw for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 69-yard strike to Reggie Harris early in the first quarter. The game also showed off the potential of RB Dillon Baxter, who rushed for 94 yards with a 35-yard scoring run as he continues to work towards full health after entering the season with a tender ankle. The Wildcats did face some nervous moments in the second half when the Eagles tied the game, but Baxter's touchdown run and a 37-yard field goal by Steven Stewart were enough to remain unbeaten. While the scheme may be more conventional this week, Baker has to be wary of allowing 306 yards rushing last week to Central Methodist heading into a game against a Missouri Valley team that averages 176.7 per outing. With Adam Steele back to full strength and Andre Jolly piling up 5.5 sacks through four games, the defense has plenty of playmakers to contend with the physical Missouri Valley front.
Extra Points: Baker is 2-2 at home against Missouri Valley under Mike Grossner ... Missouri Valley ranks among the NAIA top 10 in opponent third down conversions (#4 - 21.2), scoring defense (#5 - 8.7) and scoring offense (#6 - 41.0) while Baker is #6 in total scoring (133 points) and 39 in pass efficiency (158.8) ... In last season's meeting, Baker was held to 22 rushing yards on 28 carries while Missouri Valley ran for 286 yards on 54 carries (5.3/rush) ... Jake Morse is 304 yards away from eclipsing 4,000 passing yards for his career ... Bruce Reyes has not thrown an interception in 58 attempts this season after tossing 11 in eight games as a freshman ... With an average of 1.4 sacks per game thus far, Andre Jolly is on pace to break the Baker single-season mark of 13.5 set by Leroy Brown in 1992 ... LaNorris Dukes is 9th in the NAIA in total scoring (30 points) and scoring per game (10.0).
Week Five Matchups
#13 MidAmerica Nazarene (1-1, 1-1 HAAC) at Avila (0-3, 0-2 HAAC), Zarda Athletic Complex, Kansas City, Mo., 12:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: MNU leads, 10-1
Last Season: MNU 41, Avila 7 (Sept. 24, 2011 - Olathe, Kan.)
Last Time Out: Missouri Valley 41, MNU 7 (Sept. 8); Missouri Valley 55, Avila 6 (Sept. 15)
About the Pioneers: While it was way too early to hit the panic button after a week three loss to Missouri Valley, there were plenty of reasons for concern after MNU suffered its first regular season home defeat since the 2006 campaign. The Pioneers gave up almost 450 yards, including 240 on the ground, and committed four turnovers of which the first two led directly to a 14-0 deficit midway through the second quarter. An offense that averaged 38.0 points per game got its only points from a 90-yard kickoff return by Dantren Anderson to start the second half and ran just 49 plays on the day. The Pioneers can look to the health of Greg Gates, who has rushed for 207 yards over his first two games back from an injury last season. The defense allowed Missouri Valley to convert 10-of-19 third downs two weeks ago and will need to find ways to get off the field and get a high-powered offense the ball more often.
About the Eagles: Two close losses to start the season were followed by a lopsided loss to Missouri Valley and things won't be any easier this week for Avila against its local rival looking to get on track after its own disappointing loss to the Vikings. Avila did get an efficient performance at QB from Dominic Carmazzi, who completed 12-of-15 for 128 yards and has made a strong case to get the start this week against the Pioneers. No matter who starts, the Eagles have two good targets on the perimeter in Da'Veion Sullivan and Robert Johnson, who have combined for 25 receptions, 250 yards and two touchdowns. The defense has had plenty of balance in the tackling numbers, but has forced just one turnover in each of the last two games after forcing five in its season-opening loss to Lindenwood-Belleville. The Eagles have lost 10-straight games to MNU since winning its first-ever meeting with the Pioneers.
Peru State (2-1, 1-1 HAAC) at #6 Benedictine (3-0, 1-0 HAAC), Larry Wilcox Stadium, Atchison, Kan., 1:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: Benedictine leads, 15-13
Last Season: Benedictine 47, Peru State 21 (Sept. 24, 2011 - Peru, Neb.)
Last Time Out: Peru State 48, Culver-Stockton 21 (Sept. 15); Benedictine 48, Graceland 0
About the Bobcats: In just its second year as a member of the HAAC, Peru State has shown that it is capable of going toe-to-toe with the established programs and is hoping to make another bold statement this week against the Ravens. Head coach Steve Schneider has the leading rushing attack in the conference and ranks fifth nationally with 274.0 yards per game. Behind the two-way prowess of Bo Shepard, the Bobcats are averaging 32 points per game heading into a third road contest in four weeks. Ryan Ludlow is averaging over nine yards per rush and has a league-best seven rushing touchdowns, a total good for #2 in the NAIA. The rushing attack will be tested against a Benedictine front that yielded just 149 total yards last week to Graceland and has coughed up just six points over the last two games. Preston Bruss needs to continue his excellent start as he leads the team with 32 tackles.
About the Ravens: After allowing 37 points and committing 14 penalties in its opening game of the season at Concordia (Neb.), Benedictine has tightened things up considerably and posted a combined 107-6 scoring margin the last two games. The offense has been almost unstoppable as QB Bill Noonan has completed almost 72 percent of his passes to a receiving corps with eight players boasting at least three catches. Even more impressive is that he has still yet to have Jordan Jackson on the field coming off an all-conference 2011 campaign. Back-up QB Jerrin Walton has seen significant time and gives Larry Wilcox a multi-threat option under center. The defense has just two interceptions after picking off 27 passes a year ago, but the front seven has plenty of playmakers with Jordan Ancar anchoring the defensive line while Colin McEntee and Ray Gragg highlight an athletic linebacking corps.
Central Methodist (1-2, 1-2 HAAC) at Culver-Stockton (0-3, 0-3 HAAC), Ellison Poulton Stadium, Canton, Mo., 1:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: Central Methodist leads, 46-31-3
Last Season: Central Methodist 42, Culver-Stockton 5 (Sept. 24, 2011 - Fayette, Mo.)
Last Time Out: Baker 24, Central Methodist 14; Evangel 45, Culver-Stockton 23
About the Eagles: A loss last week to Baker had additional sting as the top two quarterbacks for Central Methodist sustained injuries. Kaleb Borghardt will likely miss the rest of the season while Bryant Jackson is out at least for this week's contest. The Eagles were also without FB Seta Pohahau last week, but received a standout performance from Cleave Perryman in his place. The senior carried 25 times for 176 yards and a touchdown and will be a feature back again this week alongside Burton Iosefa. The Eagles were able to allow Baker to run just 50 plays last week, but a pair of big-play touchdowns spoiled an outstanding effort against a top 10 team in the nation. The pressure will be on third-string QB Jacob Jackson, a redshirt freshman making his first career appearance. A strong showing by the defense will be crucial as Jackson looks to settle in with his first assignment coming away from home.
About the Wildcats: Culver-Stockton possessed the ball for over half of the game, scored on its opening possession and trailed just 10-3 at the half last week against Evangel. The problem for the Wildcats was that the Crusaders scored on their first play from scrimmage and threw for 415 yards in a 45-23 defeat. Curtis Widener had his best passing numbers of the season, throwing for 233 yards and a touchdown, but had a completion percentage under 50 percent (19-of-43) while the running game managed just 47 net yards on 28 attempts. The defense yielded a number of long passing plays, but was able to convert an interception by Kyren Kemp into a 70-yard return and touchdown to make it a 31-16 game in the 4th quarter. More production out of the running game will help improve upon a 6-of-17 mark on third downs and open up an improving passing attack.
Evangel (2-1) at Nicholls State (0-2), John L. Guidry Stadium, Thibodaux, La., 6:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: Nicholls State leads, 2-0
Last Season: Nicholls State 42, Evangel 0 (Sept. 1, 2011 - Thibodaux, La.)
Last Time Out: Evangel 45, Culver-Stockton 23; Tulsa 66, Nicholls State 16
About the Crusaders: Heading into a game against a FCS opponent, Evangel will have momentum on its side following a high-flying win over Culver-Stockton last week. Andrew Brimhall threw for a career-high 416 yards and four touchdowns while the ground game garnered 168 yards to put Evangel over 600 total yards for the game. Jesse Vaughn continues to be a lethal deep threat as he piled up 191 yards on just four catches against the Wildcats. The Crusaders gave up 326 yards rushing last season to the Colonels, but will hope last week's showing of just 47 yards allowed on 28 carries provides motivation. Brimhall should also have added confidence after completing just 9-of-28 for 76 yards last season against Nicholls State. There will be plenty of pressure on defensive leaders Stephen Swillum and Denzel Billy, who share the team lead with 21 tackles.
About the Colonels: Nicholls State has not celebrated a victory for 12-straight games dating back to last season's triumph over the Crusaders. Last week, the Colonels gave up 566 yards to Tulsa, but did compile 370 yards of offense that included 222 on the ground with an average of almost five yards per tote. Leading rusher LaQuintin Caston, the team's quarterback, will miss the game with a broken collarbone. Tuskani Figaro took over the reins of the Wildcat-style offense and amassed 46 yards on 11 carries while Landry Klann completed 10-of-19 for 134 yards and a touchdown. Marcus Washington should also see plenty of carries after rushing 20 times for 101 yards thus far. The Colonels run a base 3-4 defense with junior safety Siegan Vergenal and senior LB Jordan Piper leading the way.