FB: Baker sets NCAA record at JCU

(Photos by Dave Finck)
(Photos by Dave Finck)

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio -- All-American punter Austin Baker set an NCAA Division III record with a 95-yard punt, but the Heidelberg University football team fell to John Carroll, 27-0, on Saturday. The Blue Streak defense tallied eight sacks and held Heidelberg to 121 total yards.

The Student Princes fell to 4-5 overall, 3-5 in the OAC. The Blue Streaks improved to 8-1, 7-1.

Baker's booming 95-yarder came midway through the second quarter. With the ball on the five and a brisk wind at his back, he took the snap and launched the ball two yards deep in his end zone. It bounced at the John Carroll 37 (65 yards in the air), then hit and rolled toward the JCU end zone. Despite the best efforts of speedy Nick Schneider, the ball rolled into the end zone for a touchback.

The 95-yard punt set an NCAA Division III record, previously held by Maranatha Baptist's Gunnar Rastenburg. He hit a 91-yard punt vs. Presentation in 2014. The best punt in OAC history was a 88-yarder by Ohio Northern's Steve Vagedes in 1999. Heidelberg's previous best was Elliott Koch's 73-yard punt in 2004 vs. Marietta.

Even before starting quarterback Trace Reynolds left the game, Heidelberg struggled to move the ball against a fierce JCU defense. HU got into the red zone twice, but failed to score. Their first opportunity came at the end of the second quarter. Trailing 21-0, Heidelberg took possession near midfield after recovering a JCU kickoff that hit upman Parker Smith in the leg. Trevor Harrison-Rawn completed a pair of passes and ripped off an 11-yard rush to get into field goal range. As the horn sounded, Baker's 42-yard attempt was deflected, falling short.

At the start of the fourth, Heidelberg again tried to capitalize on great field position. Harrison-Rawn hit Braden Jerome for 14 yards, then Theodore Tate for 14 more. A 13-yard run by Branden Short put the Student Princes at the JCU six. After getting down to the two, a pass on 4th-and-goal fell incomplete.

Harrison-Rawn finished 6-for-9 passing for 45 yards while splitting back-up duties with Wendell Morrison. Morrison was 2-of-4 with a pick and 32 yards.

Despite allowing the 27 points, the Heidelberg defense was solid. It held JCU quarterback Anthony Moeglin to 172 yards and running back Michael Canganelli to 129 yards in 28 carries. Elijah Brechbill set a career high with 16 tackles. Tyler Matuszak had 10 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. In the third quarter, he stepped in front of a Moeglin pass for his second interception of the year.

Baker's punt isn't Heidelberg's first foray into the NCAA Division III record books, of course. Tailback Cartel Brooks still holds the NCAA All-Divisions record with 465 rushing yards, set in 2013.

The Student Princes will wrap up the 2018 season next Saturday against Ohio Northern (5-4, 4-4). Heidelberg will celebrate Military Appreciation Day and Senior Day. Both teams will vie for the Bendekovic Bowl -- played in honor of the late Ronnie and Jason Bendekovic. Kickoff at Hoernemann Stadium is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.