NORTH NEWTON — McPherson College’s football team committed just a minuscule two penalties on Sunday against Bethel.
But one of them proved to be a real momentum-changer as the Threshers rallied for a 10-7 victory over the Bulldogs to deny Mac a 2-0 KCAC start. The game was played on Sunday due to inclement weather Saturday night.
Down 3-0 early in the third quarter, the Bulldogs methodically dissected the Bethel defense for a 15-play, 85-yard scoring drive that was capped by Ed Crouch’s 2-yard TD flip to Tyrone Campbell.
Moments later, Bethel’s Jaylen Sykes fumbled and the Bulldogs’ Dalton Whitfield recovered. Campbell then lit down the field to put the ball at the Bethel 1 with a 24-yard run, but it was called back for a block in the back and the Bulldogs wound up empty.
From there, Bethel’s moribund offense was breathing fire. The Threshers peeled 70 yards down the field, but Mac’s Ashton Serpes blocked a field goal attempt, his third of the year. But the Threshers put together another long drive the next time they had the ball and Sykes atoned for his fumble by scoring from the 2 with 4:46 to go in the game.
Mac had the ball two more times, but did little as it fell to 1-3 on the season.
“Frustrated,” Mac coach Paul Mierkiewicz said. “I need to see the film. We really struggled with their defensive line and they weren’t bringing a lot of pressure. We didn’t make enough plays when we needed to... we didn’t our give defense enough time to rest.”
It was a sleepwalking of a first half for both teams as the Threshers kicked a field goal on their first possession and they were the only points. Other than their touchdown drive on their first possession of the second half — which included four key grabs by Brandt Wolters — the Bulldogs didn’t resemble the yardage-gobbling team of the first three weeks.
Crouch was 14 of 26, but for only 105 yards while being picked twice and losing a fumble. In his defense, he had about 60 yards worth of dropped passes.
Campbell continued to be consistent on the ground with 90 yards on 23 carries.
Defensively, Mac’s Travis Steenson continued to put up All-American type numbers with 16 tackles, six of them solo, along with two sacks. Sykes, the No. 8 rusher in the country, managed just 8 yards in the first half but stepped up in the second half to finish with 61, far off the nearly 200 he had last week.
The Bulldogs knew that this was a game for the taking and it prevented them from evening their overall record as they are 1-3, two of the losses by less than a touchdown.
“We just didn’t play very well. It’s as simple as that,” Mierkiewicz said.
Mac, which has played three of four on the road, returns home on Saturday to take on nationally ranked Kansas Wesleyan.
• STATS •
Mac Listed First
First Downs — 15, 19. Rushes-Yards — 37-152; 47-137. Passing — 14-26-2-105; 12-20-0-134. Fumbles-Lost — 1-1; 2-1. Penalties-Yards — 2-15, 10-80. Punts-Avg. — 5-36.4; 6-35.5.
• LEADERS •
Mac — Campbell 23-90, Crouch 14-62.
Bethel — Simon 11-69, Sykes 18-61, Purvin 5-16.
• Passing •
Mac — Crouch 14-26-2-105.
Bethel — Jones 12-20-134.
• Receiving •
Mac — Fagan 5-52, Wolters 4-33, Goodmiller 2-16, Campbell 2-4, Schmidt 1-0.
Bethel — Jackson 5-60, Dubose 2-15, Lucas 2-13, Jolivet 1-18, Smith 1-18, Sykes 1-10