White and his Missouri Valley College teammates didn't allow the absence of six players -- including all-Americans Larry Wentzel and Reggie Singletary -- to effect them whatsoever Saturday as they took out another of their challengers for second place in the Heart of America Conference, and a possible NAIA playoff bid, by whipping Baker, 34-20, on Gregg-Mitchell Field.
"We had a lot of players out, but we're all family and we play for each other," remarked White, the red-shirt freshman quarterback from Brielle, N.J., who led the 15th-ranked Vikings to a 34-0 lead with a pair of touchdown passes. "We fought through it."
Valley was in command of the game from the start, snuffing the Wildcats' bread-and-butter ground attack. Some fourth-quarter sloppiness let Baker get some respectability points, but it hardly threatened in the first half -- and the visitors were lucky their 20-0 deficit wasn't larger.
"Everybody's better when they're playing with a lead," remarked MVC head coach Paul Troth. "The things we said we had to do, we did."
Two early sacks by senior Marquette Floyd made life rough for BU's offense, which only had two first downs in its first six possessions.
"They really don't know about me, because of Reggie [Singletary], so I had the opportunity to make those plays," Floyd noted. "I was kind of hidden."
Midway through the opening period, Baker shanked a punt, which only went 11 yards.
White's 35-yard pass to sophomore Scott Humphrey set up an 7-yard toss to junior Javion Jones in the end zone.
Senior Justin Shiroma recovered a fumble to end the ‘Cats' next series at their own 24-yard line, White hooking up with junior Jonathan Nunez for a 17-yard TD. Senior Aubrey Smith smothered a punt to give the Vikings the ball at the BU 25, senior Joe Park drilling a 26-yard field goal.
Baker's try for three in the final minute of the half was blocked by sophomore Merlin Benefield, sophomore Colin Smith's 73-yard return for an apparent touchdown partially negated by a late flag well behind the play. Instead, Valley ended the frame with a 37-yard Park field goal.
"Those blocked kicks were a huge advantage for us," Troth said. "Every week we look at the opponent's schemes and try to give them something they haven't seen."
After being contained during the first half, junior Robert Holmes scored twice in the second, the first on a 46-yard run in the opening minute. Holmes, who finished with 109 rushing yards, had three carries for 28 yards to cash in on senior Brett Gillam's interception with 13:45 left in the game.
"It was a little rough at first" against the ‘Cats' solid run defense, Holmes admitted, "but we loosened them up with the pass."
Junior Derek Doerfler finally made a pair of field goals during the last stanza and Baker (5-4, 5-3 HAAC) scored twice in the final nine minutes against the Vikings' subs, junior Eric Allen returning an interception 40 yards and junior Richie Bryant catching a 1-yard pass after a botched punt snap gave the Wildcats the ball at the Valley 6.
"It was unfortunate we didn't execute some things," Troth admitted. "We got a chance to play a lot of young guys."
Only three two-loss teams remain with two games left, and the Vikings (6-2, 6-2) are ranked ahead of both.
Valley heads to 1-8 Culver-Stockton on Saturday, with the players suspended for wearing illegally-long cleats against MidAmerica Nazarene two weeks ago back on the field, trying to set up a meaningful finale at home against unbeaten league-leading Lindenwood.
"What's ahead of us is pretty well laid out," Troth said. "We've got to win, and we'll be fine."