The Vikings took a 31-3 lead into the final frame, but yielded a pair of touchdowns before stopping No. 9 Baker for a 31-17 Heart of America Conference road win.
"We got the win, but we've got to play a little bit better and continue to get better," admitted MVC head coach Paul Troth. "That's what we'll have to work on this week."
Valley scored twice during the opening period, both times due to a short field. Senior LaQuentin Black blocked a punt to end the Wildcats' first series, setting up sophomore Bruce Reyes' 28-yard pass to freshman Jacoby Bellard.
Two minutes later, junior Danny Reyes sacked junior quarterback Jake Morse -- shaking the ball loose, with senior Siosaia Mataele recovering at the Baker 43. Senior Zavier Stewart ran three times for 39 yards, with senior LaNorris Dukes scoring on a 3-yard run.
Senior Reggie Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards, but the 'Cats couldn't take advantage due to an interception by junior Tyler Davis.
"Our front three did a good job," Troth said about the Vikings' pressure on the pocket. "We were able to hit their quarterback a little bit and rush some of his throws."
Valley got a bad break late in the opening period when Bruce Reyes took a blow to the head and had to sit the rest of the game. Fortunately, senior Taylor Beasley had been rotating in throughout the season and was ready, but the Vikings' offense wasn't able to get much going until late in the half.
Morse completed a 25-yard pass to senior Jake Green, putting Baker in range for a 30-yard field goal by senior Steven Stewart. With a minute left in the half, Black came up with a pick and returned it nine yards to the BU 45.
Freshman Seth Martinko hauled in a 17-yard pass from Beasley, whose next throw went 25 yards to the corner of the end zone - where Bellard leaped and came down with a foot inbounds to give the Vikings a 21-3 lead with 37 seconds left in the half.
"That was a great catch by Jacoby," Troth said. "I thought that gave us some momentum."
Three Beasley passes for 31 yards in the opening possession of the second half put senior Fabian Miramontes in position to make a 31-yard field goal.
On Valley's next series, three Stewart runs netted 28 yards and Dukes carried three times for 23 yards, the last being a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 5:22 remaining in the third quarter.
The 'Cats went to the ground attack, reaching the MVC 13-yard line before being stopped on downs. The next time they got the ball, when freshman Siaanga Moala blocked a punt, junior Dillon Baxter was fed the ball six straight snaps for 31 yards -- scoring from a yard out.
Baker got the ball back when senior Mario Armstrong recovered a fumble at the Valley 46. Baxter gained 27 yards and senior Sam Vossen hit senior Kyle Bolton with a 12-yard scoring strike with 7:08 to go.
"We maybe got a little too conservative. We were trying to run the clock," Troth said. "We were giving them too good of field position and they were able to capitalize."
The Wildcats (4-1, 3-1 HAAC) got the ball back with under two minutes remaining and had two big plays, Bolton gaining 26 yards on a reverse and catching a 30-yard pass to get into Valley's red zone. However, a third-down attempt came up short and a personal foul penalty pushed the offense back. On fourth down, Davis tackled Baxter before he reached the marker and the Vikings were able to run out the clock.
It wasn't pretty, but it was still a win for Valley (4-0, 3-0), which takes over the league lead and returns home Saturday to face winless Culver-Stockton.
"The guys have answered the challenge each week," Troth remarked. "We've got six more games to play, so you have to make sure you come out and take care of business each week."