For McPherson College football coach Steve Fox, at some point moral victories need to become actual victories.
The Bulldogs have played teams almost to a standstill, but that has translated into only one victory in five games.
Mac and Bacone were tied going into the fourth quarter of the season opener before the Warriors came away with the win. The Bulldogs came up a touchdown short against Heart of America power MidAmerica Nazarene the following week, then they lost to Bethel 13-0, with the Threshers scoring in the final 2 minutes for a wider margin.
After a rousing comeback victory over Kansas Wesleyan in their only home game to date, the Bulldogs took nationally ranked Ottawa into double-overtime last week before losing by a field goal, 41-38.
The Bulldogs finally return home for their first two-game homestand, beginning with the powerful Friends Falcons on Saturday. It’s their first day game of the year, with kickoff set for 1:30 p.m. at McPherson Stadium.
Friends is one of five teams in the 2-1 first-place logjam, while the Bulldogs are one of five teams in the 1-2 last-place logjam. The Falcons received votes in last week's poll as it moves toward a Top 25 national ranking.
“We’re making ground every week,” Fox said. “I wish the record reflected that. We’re getting better every Saturday, it’s just not showing up in the win column.”
Friends comes in 3-2 overall and appears now to be hitting on all cylinders. It has KCAC wins over Southwestern (45-8) and Kansas Wesleyan (53-14) and its only loss was to Sterling (36-33).
Friends’ style can be summed up in one word.
“Physical,” said Fox, which is a stock answer for any coach who goes up against the Falcons. “They are a physical, tough football team. You’ve got to applaud Monty (Friends head coach Lewis) and what he does down there (in Wichita). The game’s not hard. Monty is a poster child for that. They just line up and say ‘this is what we do.’ They dare you to stop it.”
Going into the season, the Falcons’ passing game had been considered suspect, but quarterback Aaron Hansen and receiver Chris Allen hooked up five times last week for touchdowns and 272 yards total, which earned Allen the NAIA National Player of the Week.
That’s not good news for a leaky Mac secondary that surrendered four touchdown catches last week to Ottawa’s Josh Stangby.
“It’s no different than last week,” Fox said. “You’ve got to stop him (Allen). He’s a different type of receiver. He’s more physical, he fits the Monty Lewis mold. Stangby just runs by you.”
The Bulldogs’ offense has improved by light-years since the Bethel donut debacle. Freshman quarterback Cody Groff ran for 100 yards and threw for 252 against Ottawa as it appears the Bulldogs may go the rest of the way without one-game wonder JT Levenseller, who is still out with a knee injury. Groff has developed a quality cast of receivers, including Andrew Johnston, Michael Ramos, Stef’on Walker and Kelly Cordova. Other than Groff, though, Mac did little on the ground as Miles Balthazor, who gashed Kansas Wesleyan the week before, was stoned for 44 yards in 26 carries as there was nowhere to run.
The game figures to come down to the Bulldogs’ secondary play, as their front seven has been solid all year. However, linebacker Trent Forrester is questionable with a pinched nerve after an amazing five-game start to his season that would warrant All-American honors if the Bulldogs’ record was better.
Working in the Bulldogs’ favor is that most of the 2-1 teams are still on their schedule, so in a sense they control their own destiny. Also, four of these last six games are at home.
• KCAC STANDINGS •
Tabor, 2-1 (4-1)
Friends, 2-1 (3-2)
Ottawa, 2-1 (3-2)
Saint Mary, 2-1 (2-3)
Sterling, 2-1 (2-3)
Bethany, 1-2 (2-3)
Bethel, 1-2 (2-3)
McPherson College, 1-3 (1-4)
Southwestern, 1-3 (1-4)
Kansas Wesleyan, 1-2 (1-4)
• Saturday’s Games •
Friends at McPherson College
Southwestern at Bethany
Ottawa at Saint Mary
Tabor at Kansas Wesleyan
Bethel at Sterling