A 39-yard field goal attempt early in the first quarter perfectly typified the kind of football seasons being enjoyed by Saint Mary and McPherson College.
The Spires entered Saturday as destiny’s darling as they have won several close games in what is turning into a magical season. The Bulldogs were the polar opposite, having lost three of their KCAC games by a total of eight points.
So when Saint Mary’s Aiden Pirrin’s kick hit the upright but ricocheted through successfully, that told you which side destiny was going to play for on a perfect fall day at McPherson Stadium.
The Spires used their ball-control offense and a stifling defense to go on and defeat the Bulldogs 17-10 to move to 5-1 in the KCAC and still tied with Kansas Wesleyan and Tabor.
The Bulldogs sank to 1-5 in the KCAC, as four of their losses are now by a total of 18 points. Overall, Mac is 1-7.
After Pirrin’s field goal gave Saint Mary an early 3-0 lead, Mac charged right back down the field and Ed Crouch ran in from 3 yards to give the Bulldogs a 7-3 advantage, which gave early indications a track meet could break out.
But it would be their last offensive hurrah. It was a 17-7 game at the half and the Spires were content to play field position the rest of the game, once pinning Mac at its own 2 and the next series had the Bulldogs backed up to their own 1.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s probably as poorly as we’ve played all year,” Mac coach Paul Mierkiewicz said. “I don’t think it was because of a lack of effort, we just couldn’t execute what needed to get done offensively. I thought their defensive line was a real big challenge for us. I think our kids were ready to play, but for whatever reason we didn’t play very well.”
The Bulldogs had entered the day ranked No. 10 nationally in rushing offense, but the stout Saint Mary defense shut down the ground attack as Mac had just 52 yards on 26 carries. Crouch did throw for 232, but it’s evident the number of big hits he’s taken over the season have slowed him down as he didn’t run nearly as much as normal. Mierkiewicz conceded that Crouch is “banged up,” but it didn’t help that some balls were dropped.
The Bulldogs’ defense, led by Dalton Whitfield and Travis Steenson, played well enough to win. In fact, Mac had a 284-272 edge in total offense as the game zipped along in well under 3 hours, a rarity in this day and age.
Mac’s Tyrone Campbell was held to 64 yards on 16 carries as the Spires definitely keyed on him. Brandt Wolters had a nice day catching the ball with 97 yards on six grabs. Anthony Schmidt added 77 yards on three catches, including a 48-yarder that set up Mac’s lone touchdown.
Saint Mary quarterback Drew Cortez was highly efficient, completing 12 of 19 passes for 141 yards and two scores, one by Isai Fernandez and the other by Anthony Piscitelli.
Whitfield was in on 17 tackles while Steenson — No. 2 in the nation — added 16, 11 of those in the second half when he was almost unblockable.
The Bulldogs will head out for two weeks, starting with a trip Saturday to Tabor.