The flashes of potential are starting to occur with a little more frequency.
McPherson College’s incredibly young football team is still learning to walk before it can run, but Saturday night it at least broke into a mild trot during a 28-14 loss to Bethel College in the Blake Reed Memorial Game at McPherson Stadium.
It clearly was the Bulldogs’ best effort during their 0-3 start, as the offense started to pick up the defense with some sustained drives. Mac had the ball only 18 minutes in last week’s loss to Southwestern, but upped that to 27 against the Threshers.
Still, a loss is a loss.
“We were able to be a little more creative, which was nice to see,” Mac coach Paul Mierkiewicz said. “We made some adjustments in some of the things we were doing and the guys really responded.”
Mac quarterback Chris Linnin threw for 185 yards and fellow freshman Ryan Lakso scored on a pair of short runs. DeAvonte Doucet, in his first start, gave the running game some spice with 68 yards on 18 carries, while Ste’fon Walker and Michael Ramos combined for nine catches and 149 yards after being virtually invisible the first two games.
Defensively, Dalton Whitfield continues to play as well as any linebacker in the KCAC with 16 tackles, while Michael Rabara and Braden Bush picked off passes, both of them being returned 52 yards.
Mac trailed only 7-0 late in the first half when Bethel added a touchdown with 14 seconds left after an exhaustive 14-play, 96-yard drive for a 14-0 halftime lead. The Threshers also went 96 yards on their first possession of the second half to lead 21-0, but after that the Bulldogs outscored them 14-7.
The Bulldogs actually could have put more points on the board as an early chip-shot field goal was missed that would have given them a 3-0 lead and on the first series of the second half, Mac marched to the Bethel 4, but the drive stalled after three straight incompletions.
The Bulldogs, who were giving away so much size and experience in their threadbare defensive front, had no answer for brutish running back Preston Oliver, who rushed for 184 yards on 30 carries, scoring twice. Jalen Sykes was a nice change of pace with 96 yards on 13 totes and also found the end zone once. Brandon Steed, who threw only 10 times, hooked up with Erik Long for a 29-yard TD for the other Thresher score.
The Bulldogs have no easy task coming up on Saturday when they play at 4-0 Kansas Wesleyan, which wasted Southwestern 42-0 last night in Winfield. The Coyotes have climbed to No. 24 in the country as they have turned things around after going just 2-9 last year.
• STATISTICS •
Mac Listed First
First Downs — 15, 26. Rushes-Yards — 28-79; 55-298. Passing — 12-28-1-185; 7-10-2-79. Punts-Avg. — 5-46.4; 5-42.8. Fumbles-Lost — 3-1, 0-0. Penalties-Yards — 7-40; 3-20.
• INDIVIDUAL LEADERS •
Mac — Doucet 18-66.
Bethel — Oliver 30-184, Sykes 13-91.
Mac — Linnin 12-28-1-185
Bethel — Steed 7-10-2-79.
Mac — Walker 5-89, Ramos 4-63, Fagan 1-8, Doucet 1-8
Bethel — Long 2-38, Purvin 2-17.