Some people who have had to follow in the footsteps of a record-setting quarterback that took a program to previously unseen heights with the expectation of winning the school’s fourth-straight league championship might be overwhelmed by the experience, but not Case Western Reserve quarterback Joey Baum.
That was just his first day on the job as starting quarterback for the Spartans after taking over for graduated senior Dan Whalen.
“It would have been easy for me to feel a lot of the pressure and I certainly did at times,” Baum said. “Honestly, on game day I was kind of up and down of feeling it, not feeling it. A little bit before the game, I was thinking that I’ve put in the work the last three years and this is what I’ve been waiting for. There was no reason to feel pressure.
“That’s something all of the classes ahead of us and we have been working toward, getting respect to this football program in the area,” he added of the championship expectations. “Before, that was not necessarily the case. That was kind of nice to see that, after losing those types of guys, great players, great leaders, that we still have respect. It’s more than just one player. It’s a tradition and the program as a whole that feeds into its success.”
How Baum went about handling his business between the lines while Whalen was still in the program gave the coaching staff confidence in him.
“We weren’t sure what we were going to get, but his freshman year, when he played mainly on our JV program, we knew we had somebody who was really good,” Case coach Greg Debeljak said. “He was very accurate, very smart, was a real student of the game and he took to coaching really well. We knew we had a legitimate D-III quarterback stuck behind a great D-III quarterback. I think everyone also felt comfortable that Joey would do a very good job when he had his opportunity.”
In his first game as the No. 1 option at quarterback, Baum went out and led the Spartans to a 30-13 victory over John Carroll University, in the first meeting between the schools since 1988. He completed 9-of-13 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns and helped lead the Spartans offense to 390 total yards.
Baum hit four receivers with passes, including senior Zach Homyk, who hauled in a team-leading six receptions for a game-high 91 yards.
“That was kind of a huge thing for me coming in,” he said. “I’ve always been confident in my abilities, but certainly, that helped spark things confidence-wise, even with the team, giving them confidence in me. I played a little bit my sophomore year when Dan got hurt, but other than that, I haven’t really played much in a big game. Having that really big game for us early in the season, for me personally was great. It was great for the team too. We started off on the right foot.
“These guys have been great,” added Baum. “You can just tell that everybody believes in me. A lot of that’s a product of seeing me work hard in the off-season, working hard with everybody. I’ve gotten first-team reps in practice and have a lot of experience working with those guys. It’s not like going into a huddle with a group of strangers. They’re all my best friends. It’s a family atmosphere and that helps ease the transition.”
One week after beating John Carroll, Baum led the Spartans to upstate New York against Rochester. Case jumped out to an early lead, but gave up ten points in the second quarter. The Spartans trailed with less than a minute to go in the game, that is, until Baum came up with a big play. On first-and-ten from Rochester’s 17-yard line, Baum dropped back and found Homyk for the go-ahead score.
Baum, who was intercepted three times earlier in the game, and the Spartans offense had taken over at their own 18-yard line after Rochester pinned them back deep with a punt.
“It’s interesting because we didn’t play how we wanted to,” Homyk said. “We had a few turnovers; I had a few dropped balls. We were not that sound offensively and to come from behind like that after we were in the red zone multiple times and didn’t get any touchdowns or field goals for that matter, it was an extraordinarily big win.
“It’s good to see him keep his head on straight and be able to drive 80 yards essentially for a game-winning touchdown,” he added. “I just read a tight coverage and got behind him. Joey made the right read and it was a perfect pass in the corner of the end zone. It was just a great play altogether.”
Though Baum was excited, he was a little nervous until the remaining seconds ticked off the clock.
“Right when that ‘Hail Mary’ failed at the end, it was just a big sigh of relief,” he said. “I certainly didn’t have my best game up to that point and it was definitely a learning experience. I tried to put everything behind me and keep getting the plays that we were getting called and try to execute what I had in front of me. It was just a great feeling.
“We had the Week 1 win over (John) Carroll, where we kind of dominated them most of the game, but this was more, ‘What are we going to do when it comes down to crunch time?’” he continued. “I hadn’t been in any situations like that. Dan had been in those situations over and over again. It was kind of cool to have success in that situation.”
News and Notes
Bethany junior running back Eric Walker carried the ball 32 times and gained a career-high 220 yards in the Bison’s 31-29 win at King’s. He scored three touchdowns, including two from one-yard out and also broke a 48-yarder to extend Bethany’s lead to eight over King’s.
Mount Union quarterback Neal Seaman completed 26-of-37 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns in the Purple Raiders’ 45-28 win at UW-Oshkosh last Saturday. Seaman connected with seven different receivers, three of which caught touchdowns. Cecil Shorts III led the way with 105 yards on five receptions. He caught two touchdowns, ran four times for 36 yards, returned two kickoffs for 52 yards and two punts for 57 yards.
Only one word can accurately describe Trine’s last two games: domination. They have beaten Manchester and Bluffton by a combined count of 131-13. One week after setting the school record for yards in a single-game, the Thunder gained 600 yards, scored 10 touchdowns and set the school record for points in a game, as well as the largest margin of victory.
Quarterback Eric Watt has completed 25-of-30 passes for 475 yards and four touchdowns, while running back Ja Vontae Hence has scored five touchdowns on the ground. Hence has only carried the ball 14 times and is one of five Thunder players with five or more carries to average better than eight yards-per-rush.
Kenyon sophomore quarterback Dan Shannon had a record-breaking day in the loss to Hiram. Shannon completed 35-of-48 passes for 306 yards. He surpassed the old mark of 33, which was set it 2008.
Teams in D3football.com’s Top 25 Poll:
No. 2-Mount Union (OAC)-No change after 45-28
win over UW-Oshkosh; at John Carroll this week
No. 6-Wittenberg (NCAC)-Up two spots following 52-0 victory over Ohio Wesleyan; home to Washington University Saturday
No. 11-Ohio Northern (OAC)-No change after bye week; at Otterbein Saturday
No. 12-Thomas More (PAC)-Up three spots following 56-12 win at Hanover; at Geneva Saturday
No. 17-Trine (MIAA)-No change after 76-6 victory at Bluffton; at UW-River Falls Saturday
No. 18-Otterbein (OAC)-No change following bye week; home vs. Ohio Northern Saturday
No. 22-Wabash (NCAC)-No change after 21-17 win against Wooster; at Ohio Wesleyan Saturday
Others Receiving Votes: Washington and Jefferson (PAC), Case Western Reserve (UAA), Baldwin-Wallace (OAC)
Games of the Week
No. 17 Trine (2-0) at UW-River Falls (0-2), Saturday, 1 p.m.: UW-River Falls has its home opener after starting the season with two straight losses on the road. After dropping a 35-21 decision to Ohio Northern, UW-River Falls fell 27-3 at St. Thomas. They return home to face a potent offense in Trine, who has cruised over its first two opponents.
No. 11 Ohio Northern (1-0) at No. 18 Otterbein (1-0), Saturday, 1:30 p.m.: Someone in the Ohio Athletic Conference will have a more difficult road to the postseason after this battle. The loser of this match-up will be one game back in the OAC title race with games against Mount Union, Capital and Baldwin-Wallace still on the schedule.