Elton Taylor's 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown proves the difference
Article by Andy Pulverenti, Missouri Valley Sports Information Director
Marshall, Mo. (November 4, 2017)- The Missouri Valley College football team hosted No. 2 Baker (Kan.) University on Senior Day, Saturday at Gregg-Mitchell Field in a Heart of America Athletic Conference Southern Division contest. The Vikings used a big special teams play early, and kept a high-scoring offense off track before eventually earning a 27-22 upset victory.
The Missouri Valley defense opened the game with a stop, forcing the Wildcats into a three-and-out on their initial possession of the game. The Vikings took over near midfield, and picked up a first down on the drive after a BU penalty, but the offense stalled at the Baker 37-yard line. The Wildcats followed with their first scoring drive, moving 75 yards in 10 plays against the MVC defense, picking up three first downs in the process. Eventually, the Vikings forced Baker into a field goal try, which was successful, and put BU in front, 3-0, with nearly eight minutes played in the first quarter.
The Vikings answered back with a big special teams play. The ensuing kickoff was returned by Freshman Running Back Elton Taylor (Mesquite, Texas) who raced back 93 yards for a touchdown. Junior Kicker Austin Johnson’s (St. Charles, Mo.) extra-point put Missouri Valley in front, 7-3. The Vikings came up with another big play on Baker’s following drive, as Senior Defensive Lineman Dedric Allen (Sacramento, Calif.) intercepted a Wildcat pass at midfield. The Viking offense was unable to create points off the turnover, as Sophomore Punter Drake Higgins (Lathrop, Mo.) got off a 43-yard punt that forced Baker to start its next possession at its 12-yard line. The Wildcats quickly moved to midfield, but Senior Linebacker Jake King (Blue Springs, Mo.) came up with the first of his three sacks on the afternoon, dropping the BU quarterback for a 24-yard loss.
Both teams traded punts late first quarter and into the second quarter. King helped end another Baker drive early in the second quarter with another sack. Freshman Quarterback Jake Bridges (Park Hill, Mo.) opened the next Missouri Valley drive with a 20-yard completion to Sophomore Wide Receiver Jakari Johnson (Dallas, Texas). Later in the drive, the two hooked-up for a 21-yard gain, putting MVC at the Baker 12-yard line. Eventually, the Vikings faced a third-and-13, but Bridges scrambled, and found Sophomore Running Back Kenny Sanford (Columbus, Ohio) for a 15-yard touchdown pass, to extend the Missouri Valley lead. However, Johnson’s extra-point was blocked, and Baker returned the kick back for two-points. The Vikings held a 13-5 lead with nine minutes to play in the second quarter.
The Wildcats responded with another long drive, this time covering 40 yards on 10 plays. However, a pass break-up from Senior Defensive Back Antoine Palmer (Houston, Texas) on third down forced BU into a field goal. The 35-yard attempt sailed wide of the uprights, and the Viking defense had another stop. Baker had one more scoring drive before halftime, turning a Bridges interception into a field goal to cut the MVC lead to 13-8 going into the break.
The third quarter featured the two teams struggling to get much started on offense. Both team punted on their first two possessions of the half, but the Baker defense came up with another turnover midway through the quarter. Bridges had a second pass intercepted, this time at the Baker 23-yard line. However, the Viking defense came up with a stop, helped by a pass break-up from Junior Defensive Back Aaron Ross (Sacramento, Calif.) on third down. The next scoring opportunity for either team came late in the quarter, when Missouri Valley started a drive at its own 43-yard line after a 26-yard Baker punt. Bridges hit Johnson for a 41-yard pass on the opening play of the drive, to put MVC deep inside BU territory. Sanford followed with three-straight rushing attempts, the final attempt a one-yard touchdown, to extend the Viking lead to 20-8 with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter.
Baker could not answer the Missouri Valley score, as the Viking defense forced a three-and-out, helped by a tackle-for-loss from Allen and a sack from King. The Wildcats eventually closed the gap, and did so early in the fourth quarter. Baker strung together a nine play, 73-yard drive that saw the team pick up three first downs. The drive was capped off with a three-yard touchdown run, and the MVC lead was trimmed to 20-15 with over 11-minutes to play in the game. The Baker defense came up with a three-and-out stop of Missouri Valley, but a 52-yard punt from Higgins forced Baker to start its next possession at its own 30-yard line. The Wildcats quickly moved into Viking territory, but Allen came through with a sack to help end the threat, and force Baker into another punt.
The Vikings started their next drive at the 20-yard line, and put the game out of reach on just one play. Bridges hit Senior Wide Receiver Dorian Stanard (Daytona Beach, Fla.) for an 80-yard touchdown pass, extending the MVC lead to 27-15 midway through the quarter. Baker tried to mount a late rally, and put together an 11-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off with a touchdown, making it a 27-22 score with under one minute to play. The Wildcats lined up for an onside kick, and nearly came up with the loose ball, but a Wildcat gained possession after stepping out-of-bounds. Missouri Valley was able to run out the final seconds in the game, and earn a 27-22 upset win.
Leading the way for Missouri Valley was Bridges, who finished 13 of 22 passing for 230 yards, with two touchdown and two interceptions. Sanford added 44 yards rushing, with 15 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Johnson led the team with four receptions for 95 yards, while Stanard added three receptions for 88 yards.
The defense was led by Senior Defensive Back Gregorie Johnson (Port Arthur, Texas), who finished with 12 total tackles. Allen added seven tackles, two sacks, three tackles-for-loss and the interception. Senior Defensive Back Davon Henry (Tampa, Fla.) finished with seven tackles, while King added five tackles and three sacks. Missouri Valley totaled six sacks and 10 tackles-for-loss in the game.
Elton Taylor had 123 return yards in the game, and a touchdown. Higgins punted 11 times, averaging 45.3 yards per punt, with a long of 60 yards. Johnson made three of his four extra-point attempts.
The win puts Missouri Valley at 5-5 overall and 3-1 in the Heart Southern Division. Baker falls to 9-1 on the season and 3-1 in the division.
The Vikings will wrap up the 2017 regular season with a game at MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) University, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m., in Olathe, Kan. Missouri Valley has a chance to clinch a share of the Heart Southern Division title, with a win over the Pioneers and a Baker win over Evangel (Mo.) University.