As the final seconds were ticking down here Saturday afternoon, McPherson College’s starting quarterback Cody Groff and his two top running backs, Miles Balthazor and Terrance Jones, were seated on the training table, their ankles the size of grapefruits.
To their right, Glen Kirby was on crutches after being injured earlier. Near him was star linebacker Trent Forrester, who didn’t even suit up because of a pinched nerve.
Meanwhile, training staff personnel were scrambling to find enough sets of crutches to hand out to the walking wounded.
You get the idea.
The Bulldogs not only lost 45-17 to physical Friends, but the day could have irreparable damage on the rest of the season.
McPherson College, which on the first day of practice had about 80 players, was under 50 healthy bodies by the time the slugfest was over as the Bulldog sideline resembled a MASH unit.
Yet, the Bulldogs were down only 17-10 midway through the third quarter before the injury attrition finally caught up with them and the dam broke.
“It was a lot of little things that snowballed,” said Mac coach Steve Fox, whose team is now 1-3 in the KCAC and 1-5 overall. “We’ll regroup tomorrow and see what the status of all this is and move forward from there.”
The Bulldogs led 3-0 after the first quarter, displaying a solid ground game. Christian Guerra-Barbosa pounded through a 23-yard field goal after they had traversed 75 yards on their first drive before stalling out.
But it took only a 54-second blitz for Friends to flip the script.
With 9:03 left in the first half, a blown coverage allowed Friends quarterback Aaron Hansen to hook up with Jace Glover for a 72-yard TD bomb. Two plays later, Groff threw a pick-six as Jacob Adleman read his eyes, picked off the pass and danced his way into the end zone to make it 14-3 in a blink of an eye.
Just before the half, the Falcons went nearly the length of the field in just over a minute, but had to settle for Kelly Roberts field goal from 29 yards and a 17-3 halftime lead.
Mac was energized in the third quarter when a 13-yard TD strike from Groff to Kelly Cordova drew the Bulldogs within a score, 17-10.
The rest of the game, though, was a disaster.
The Falcons scored twice in a three-minute span to lead 31-10 and after another touchdown, Friends picked up its second defensive touchdown on a pick-six of backup quarterback Jordan Hoffman by Carlos Cox.
The Bulldogs scored a cosmetic touchdown in the fourth period when Tyler Stone rumbled in from 10 yards.
The Bulldogs actually had some decent numbers, as Balthazor ran for 104 yards on 19 carries before being injured on the last play of the third quarter. Stone, about the only remaining healthy running back, took advantage for 52 fourth-quarter yards. Cordova had five catches for 60 yards, but the two pick-sixes somewhat inflated what had been a competitive game for 2 1/2 quarters.
The Bulldogs’ secondary was once again vulnerable, surrendering 267 yards to Hansen, with All-American candidate Chris Allen catching eight for 136 yards and a score.
Mac will try to heal up as it hosts Saint Mary next Saturday night, with kickoff set for 6 p.m. because of homecoming.
• STATISTICS •
• Mac Listed First •
First Downs — 22, 26. Rushes-Yards — 44-215; 43-210. Passing — 13-35-3-142; 15-32-0-267. Punts-Avg. — 6-37.5; 2-26.7. Penalties-Yards — 8-67; 4-30. Fumbles-Lost — 0-0, 2-1.
• INDIVIDUAL LEADERS •
• Rushing •
Mac — Balthazor 19-104, Stone 6-52, Jones 7-32, Groff 12-27.
Friends — Rogers 14-115, Hayward 4-33, Brandon 6-25, Hansen 5-14.
• Passing •
Mac — Groff 11-26-2-125, Hoffman 2-8-1-17.
Friends — Hansen 15-32-0-267.
• Receiving •
Mac — Cordova 5-60, Walker 3-45, Ramos 3-18, Chase 2-19.
Friends — Allen 8-136, Rogers 3-39, Glover 1-72, Becker 1-12.