Photo by Katie Kurka | Staff Photographer
BY MADELINE CHEEK
With four minutes left in the game, Drake junior quarterback Grant Kraemer pump faked and scrambled for 13 yards straight through the middle of the field on a third-and-long, breaking a tackle to give Drake a first down. With that, Kraemer secured Drake’s lead, allowing room for the clock to run through those final minutes against the McKendree University Bearcats.
This was Kraemer’s first time starting this year, and he was rewarded for his efforts with the Drake Bulldogs’ first victory of the season. Although Drake endured a crushing six sacks, Kraemer was able to best the Bearcats in total passing yards: 241-190.
“I’m proud of the way Kraemer played,” said offensive lineman and team captain Aaron Melton. “I mean, the kid took hits, got back up and was still slinging the ball, so that’s something you always look forward to seeing as an offensive lineman.”
The Bearcats’ quarterback, freshman Brandon Wildman, came out strong in the first quarter with a 39-yard run into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.
Drake nearly tied it up with a 94-yard kickoff return by running back Conley Wilkins, who took the ball all the way into the end zone to the sound of a cheering crowd. However, there was a flag on the play, a holding penalty, and the Bulldogs were back on their own 15-yard line.
Drake lagged behind 10-0 at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Bulldogs started to get some momentum.
The Drake defense was able to prevent the Bearcats from scoring again until the fourth quarter.
Wilkins and senior tight end Andrew Yearwood provided touchdowns for Drake, aided by receptions by junior tight end Connor Ostrander who led the team with 58 receiving yards in the game, to take a 14-10 lead going into halftime. The second half featured excellent defense on the part of the Bulldogs and two more touchdowns off of passes from Kraemer to senior wide receiver Grant Menard and redshirt-senior tight end Eric Saubert.
The Bearcats gave the Bulldogs a run for their money in the fourth quarter with another touchdown in the first four minutes of the fourth to draw within 12.
Drake’s next two drives were three-and-outs, but the Bearcats couldn’t capitalize. They drove into Bulldog territory on each drive, but an interception and a turnover on downs preserved DU’s lead.
Kraemer’s clutch third down scramble, followed by first downs on a pass to Saubert and run by Wilkins, allowed Drake to run out the clock ahead 28-16.The game was Kraemer’s second career appearance. He played last week against South Dakota State University when he threw for 133 yards with 12 completions on 18 attempts, one touchdown and no interceptions.
He did even better on Sunday in his first full game behind center after earning the starting role over redshirt senior Cody Thibault, who started the first two games.
Throwing 42 times, Kraemer amassed 241 yards on 24 completions with three TDs and one pick.
Despite the six sacks, his scrambles gained 31 yards on the ground.
“(My biggest obstacles were) relaxing, playing Drake football as coach Fox always reiterates and just staying within ourselves,” Kraemer said. “And I think as soon as we did that, we started to score, and we started to play how we normally do play, so I was glad to do that.”
Running backs Wilkins and sophomore Drew Lauer combined for 145 rushing yards, a season high for Drake’s backs. “Our end of the deal is to put on a good performance for the fans who are here,” head coach Rick Fox said earlier this week, “and we didn’t do that the first game, but I think we’re ready to do that this Saturday.”
After a rocky 0-2 start to the season, the Bulldogs delivered this weekend.
Drake will enter the conference season at 1 p.m. on Sept. 24 for the Homecoming game against Morehead State.