William Jewell College hosted Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) foe Southwest Baptist University (SBU) Thurs., Sept. 4 to kick off the 2014 season.
The Cardinals (1-0, 1-0 GLVC) fought their way to an upset according to the GLVC coaches’ poll, which predicted Jewell and SBU to finish ninth and sixth, respectively.
Prior to Thursday’s game, Jewell had not won a season opener since 2011, Jewell’s first year as a provisional member of NCAA Division II. The team began the season with a slightly different coaching staff. Jerod Kruse began his fifth year as the head coach, but Jack Bissonette and Billy Queisert, both former players, and Sam Brown, a former Jewell football coach, have joined the staff. After the departure of Ryan Majors, former quarter back (QB) coach and offensive coordinator, Shawn Weigel has become the new offensive coordinator.
Jewell has also implemented an entirely new offense. As evidenced Thursday night, the Cardinals will rarely huddle on offense, and they will try to keep the opposing defense on their heels with an up-tempo attack.
The SBU Bearcats, first year associate members of the GLVC, put points on the board in the first quarter with a 36-yard touchdown pass from (QB) Willie Tindal to wide receiver (WR) Nathan Mourik. The Cardinals retaliated in the second quarter with rushing scores from running back (RB) Thomas Cook, junior, and QB DJ Balazs, senior. A missed extra point by kicker (K) Brandon Womack, junior, and a missed two-point conversion by SBU on respective touchdowns brought the score to 12-7 in Jewell’s favor. The Cardinals were able to retain the ball on a fumble by the Bearcats on the ensuing kickoff, the Bearcats’ second special team’s miscue of the game. Womack kicked a 27-yard field goal, and the Cardinals entered into halftime with a 15-7 lead.
Jewell received the ball at the half, drove down the field and scored on a Cook 16-yard touchdown with an extra point by Womack, to retain the lead to 22-7.
However, SBU’s offense began to click, and there was little the Cardinal defense could do to stop it.
The William Jewell defense was plagued by cramping on the over 100 degree field. A 49-yard connection from Tindal to Mourik set up a 1-yard touchdown run from SBU RB, Bubba Jenkins. The Bearcats scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, retaking the lead at 26-22.
Jewell’s special teams came through again as Thomas Cook took the following kickoff 90 yards for the game-winning touchdown, bringing the score to 29-26 with four minutes remaining in the game. SBU threatened the score on their last drive by bringing the ball into Cardinal territory, but an interception by defensive back (DB) Isaac Dozier Jr., first-year, on a tipped pass sealed the game allowed the Cardinals to run out the rest of the time.
Balazs finished the game 12-31 for 126 passing yards, three interceptions, and a rushing touchdown. WR Anthony Mullins, sophomore, led Jewell’s receivers with four receptions for 61 yards. The defense gave up 469 total yards, 395 passing. Nick Messer, junior, who, even after leaving the game early due to dehydration, led the defense with 7.5 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Cook rushed for 114 rushing yards on 24 carries and 2 touchdowns. His kickoff return for a touchdown highlighted his 131 return yards, which led to the GLVC head office naming him the GLVC Special Teams Player of the Week. This is Cook’s third weekly honor after previously being granted two Special Teams Player of the Week awards and one Offensive Player of the Week award. He totaled 257 all-purpose yards, the 7th highest total for one player in GLVC history.
The Cardinals go on the road this weekend. They play a high-powered offensive team at the Colorado School of Mines. Kickoff is set to be noon, Mountain Time on Saturday.
The William Jewell Cardinals will once again take the home field on Sept. 20 against Valparaiso University, whom the Cardinals beat last season, the school’s first Division I victory.