Sept. 18, 2010
Baker's Three TDs Hurdle Northwest Over Omaha
By David Boyce
OMAHA, Neb. -One play on a chilly Saturday evening made it hard to believe that Josh Baker's NCAA Division I career at Delaware came to an end because of a bad knee.
Baker, a senior tight end, had his Northwest Missouri coming out party against Nebraska-Omaha in front of 6,371 fans at Al F. Caniglia Field. He scored three touchdowns and had 105 total yards.
The two runs he had in the first half were impressive in the Bearcats' bounce-back 58-23 victory over UNO.
Early in the first quarter Baker scored on an 8-yard run that gave Northwest Missouri a 7-0 lead with 10:29 left in the first quarter.
The play that will have the Northwest Missouri faithful talking for a while occurred early in the second quarter.
Northwest Missouri was leading 23-7 and was trying to recapture the momentum. Baker made sure the Bearcats regained it in a big way. He took off on a 50-yard touchdown run off a fake punt that included a hurdle over a UNO defender with 15 yards to go.
"He's a special player," Northwest Missouri coach Mel Tjeerdsma said.
At no point during that run did Baker look like a player who had a bum knee. He was moving like a track hurdler.
"I went to set him up with a juke," Baker said. "It has been a while since I had an opportunity to juke. I got a chance to hurdle somebody. I'm always looking forward to making a play."
Finding a place where he had a year of eligibility left proved that Baker loves football.
His senior season last year couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. In the first half of the first game Baker tore his ACL in his right knee.
"It was definitely rough, but during the course of my collegiate career I've been through a lot so it was just another hurdle to overcome," he said. "You just got to keep the big picture in mind and see the light at the end of tunnel.
"You got to keep working and training. It's a never ending process. You got to get better and be optimistic about everything."
During the spring he learned he would not be awarded a second medical hardship.
Baker went looking for a Division II school to play his final season. Through research and the help of his Delaware coach, he landed in Maryville.
Obviously, he's thrilled that he's able to help a football team trying to defend its national title.
Saturday night in Omaha couldn't have been better for Baker and all the Bearcats. They were much improved from the season-opening, 16-7 loss at home against Texas A&M-Kingsville on Sept. 2.
The only thing Northwest Missouri didn't do consistently in the first half was put together long, scoring drives.
The Bearcats struck quickly. Northwest Missouri had the ball just 8 minutes, 6 seconds in the first 30 minutes, but went into halftime with a huge 44-20 lead.
As it turned out, Baker's 50-yard touchdown run was one of the shorter scoring plays for the Bearcats.
Northwest Missouri also reached the end zone on a 75-yard pass play from Blake Bolles to Jake Soy and a 73-yard kickoff return from Tyler Shaw.
These players have tasted Bearcat victory before. It was the first for Baker.
"This was definitely good," Baker said. "The coaches preach about working to get this first victory. It was the first game in the MIAA conference. It was good for everybody."
The icing came with 7:32 left in the third quarter when Baker scored on a 42-yard pass play from Bolles.
"He just makes our offense so much more versatile," Bolles said. "Now we can run a lot more two tight end sets because Kyle Kilgore had a great catch as well tonight.
"With those two guys out there with the receivers and backs we have the sky is the limit with this offense."
Expect to see more of Baker as the season goes along. Tjeerdsma is figuring out ways to incorporate Baker in the offense more. Kilgore proved last year he's a solid starter.
"I'm really proud of him," Tjeerdsma said. "He's not getting as much playing time as he would like. But he's going to get more time and do more things. I talked to him about playing on special teams. He said, ‘coach, I will do whatever I have to do.'/"
Clearly, Baker is a perfect fit.
"I learned this is a great program," Baker said. "Everybody preaches winning. You got to work for everything you get. That goes along with my whole mentality."
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