Saturday, November 8, 2008

Baker to face unbeaten MANU


How sweet it is for Baker University football.

Six consecutive wins have propelled the Wildcats into the No. 15 slot in the weekly NAIA poll, and now they have a shot at the Heart of America Athletic Conference championship.

Clearly, though, it won't be easy, not with unbeaten and No. 5-ranked MidAmerica Nazarene on tap today.

Kickoff will be at 1 p.m. at Pioneer Stadium on the MANU campus in Olathe.

"I like the match-up," Baker coach Mike Grossner said. "Our defense will have its hands full against their offense, and vice versa."

In other words, with MANU (8-0) averaging 37.3 points a game and Baker (7-2) scoring at a 31.8 clip, this one isn't likely to go into overtime as a scoreless deadlock.

Since dropping a 25-21 decision to Lindenwood (7-1) - the other school still in the HAAC title chase - the Wildcats have chalked up six straight wins, including last week's 26-22 thriller over then No. 9-ranked Missouri Valley in Baldwin City.

Baker spilled the Vikings despite limited duty from Richie Bryant, the league's leading rusher and scorer. Nursing a knee injury, Bryant carried just seven times for 13 yards, although he did catch three passes for 49 yards in Baker's game-winning drive.

"He's a lot better," Grossner said of his senior running back. "We worked him in pads on Wednesday and Thursday."

Bryant has slight cartilage damage that will need to be repaired surgically after the season.

Baker also boasts the league's No. 2-ranked passer in junior quarterback Mack Brown and the Nos. 3 and 4 receivers in Brad Fawcett and Tyrell Spain, respectively.

Brown tossed three TD passes against Missouri Valley, all to Spain - including a 23-yarder with less than 10 seconds remaining to extend the school's longest win streak in eight years.

MANU outlasted Baker, 34-30, last year in Baldwin City. BU hasn't defeated the Pioneers since 1999.

"This is a different team and a different year," Grossner said. "Our guys are up for the challenge."

Baker will celebrate Senior Day next Saturday when it plays host to Avila in the regular-season finale.


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