MUSKOGEE, Okla. — It was evident after three quarters Saturday night that a key mistake was going to decide the outcome of McPherson College’s season-opening football game against Bacone College, which was coming off an upset of then-13th-ranked Northwestern College of Iowa.
Mac and Bacone were tied at 7-all and the game basically was being played between the 20-yard lines.
It was the Bulldogs who eventually blinked, as they fumbled a Warrior punt early in the fourth quarter that led to a go-ahead field goal. Bacone then scored twice in the final five minutes for a somewhat deceiving 24-7 victory.
The Bulldogs’ defense played valiantly for most of the night, but was simply left on the field too long and eventually started to spring some leaks.
The loss spoiled the head coaching debut of Steve Fox, who previously was the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator.
“We are working on getting the offense up to speed and getting them where they need to be,” said Fox, whose team had two less weeks to prepare for the game than the Warriors. “Obviously it showed up tonight. We’re not where we quite want to be.”
Mac’s flicker of offensive juice came six minutes into the game when Jordan Hoffman hooked up with Michael Ramos for a 28-yard pitch-and-catch and a 7-0 lead.
But little else went right offensively the rest of the way, as the Bulldogs finished with just 193 yards on 63 plays. Hoffman was only 7 of 27 for 118 yards and was picked off four times. The ground game was stuffed to 75 yards on 36 attempts by the physical Warrior defense, with Terrance Jones leading with 44, but he needed 20 totes.
It was a 7-7 game at the half. It turned with 9:41 to go in the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs turned the ball over on the punt fumble and Bacone’s Drue Coffman, who had missed three earlier field goals, cashed in from 22 yards for a 10-7 lead. Colton Owen pushed the score to 17-7 with just over 4 minutes to go on a quarterback sneak and the Warriors’ final score came on a pick-six in the closing minute by Keshaun Malone.
The Bulldogs’ defense was led by Jimmy Wilson, who finished with 13 tackles, three of them for losses. Most of that occurred in the first half before Bacone ran away from him in the second half.
Mac gave up only 24 yards on the ground in the first half, but the Warriors eventually wore down the front seven and gashed away for 227 in the second half. Victor Smith rushed for 93 of his 112 yards after the break and Roderick Mackey added 105. David Chapman, whose talent drew an NFL scout to the game, finished with 114 yards on six catches and scored Bacone’s first touchdown.
“I’ve got to remind myself and the kids that this is the first game,” Fox said. “Now we know where we’re at and where we need to go from here.”
The Bulldogs will have no bargain Saturday when they travel to Olathe to play MidAmerica Nazarene. It’s the first meeting between the teams since 2009 when the Pioneers defeated the Bulldogs in Mac’s first-ever national playoff appearance.
Mac Listed First
First Downs — 14, 22. Rushes-Yards — 36-75; 47-251. Passing — 7-27-4-118; 19-350-170. Punts-Avg. — 6-31.7; 7-33.6. Fumbles-Lost — 2-1; 1-1. Penalties-Yards — 2-16, 10-114.
Mac — Jones 20-44, Chase 6-13, Balthazor 6-13.
Bacone — Smith 20-112, Mackey 15-105.
Mac — Hoffman 7-27-4-118.
Bacone — Owen 18-34-0-123, Reyes 1-1-0-46.
Mac — Ramos 3-59, Johnston 2-35, Whitfield 2-24.
Bacone — Chapman 6-114.