ANGOLA, Ind. - It was a day to "Honor and Remember" those who have served our country, during the Trine-Bluffton football game, the day before the 10th anniversary of 9-11.Trine defeated Bluffton 41-27 to improve to 2-0 on the season while Bluffton fell to 0-2.
Prior to the game, the game ball was flown to the field via helicopter by a Kosovo veteran and delivered to the officials by a WWII veteran. During halftime, those who lost their lives during 9-11 were remembered when a beam from one the World Trade Centers was on display at mid-field. Those who lost their lives on April 19, 1995 during the Oklahoma City bombing were also remembered as the flag that was flown above the federal building had been on display in the University Center.
Trine stopped Bluffton on their opening drive after just six plays and a total of seven yards. The Thunder then marched down field and scored on their first possession off a 13-yard run by junior Ja Vontae Hence (Elkhart, Ind./Concord). After another quick Bluffton possession, this time it was junior quarterback Ryan Hargraves (Taylor, Mich./Truman) who found Will Chrystal (Portage, Mich./Northern) for a 19-yard score to put the Thunder up 14-0.
The Trine defense clamped down on the Beavers as their next procession resulted in a three and out. Trine then drove down the field to the Bluffton six yard line, but were unable to punch it in from there. Trine's next possession resulted in another touchdown connection between Hargraves and Chrystal this time from 10 yards out. With just a minute remaining in the first half, Hargraves found tight end Sean Collins (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) in the end zone from six yards out. A blocked extra point gave Trine a 27-0 lead at the half.
Both teams turned the ball over on downs to start the second half as the Beavers drove down to the Thunder two yard line before the defense stopped running back Airic Steagall on four straight plays. Just three plays into the Trine possession, Hargraves found Hence this time wide open for a 63-yard touchdown.
Bluffton bounced right back scoring on their first play from scrimmage for a 67-yard touchdown reception. The Beavers then recovered the ensuing on-side kick. Ten plays later, it was Tyler Wright who ran it in from seven yards out.
Trine was forced to punt in their next possession where they just missed pinning Bluffton at the one as the ball fell into the end zone for a touchback. The Beavers took the ball and drove the field resulting in a score from five yards out. A fumble on the point after attempt pulled Bluffton to within 14 points. That would be as close as they came as Trine's Mario Brown recovered the on-side kick at the 35 yard line. Six plays later, Hargraves again found Collins who plowed through several defenders to score on a 16-yard pass.
Bluffton tried for one last scored as Josh Hadley hauled in a 48-yard touchdown reception with just a minute remaining.
Hargraves finished the afternoon going 27-for-35 for 402 yards and five touchdowns. Hence hauled in six passes for 134 yards and a score. Chrystal and Collins each pulled down six passes for 91 and 68 yards respectively. Five different Trine players had five or more carries on the day as Hence led the way with 24 yards.
Aaron Shoemaker (Onsted, Mich./Onsted) led the Thunder defense with 11 total tackles. Kyle Sherwood (Hanover, Mich./Hanover Horton) led all players with two sacks and three tackles for loss.
Hargraves' 400 yard passing game is the first since Jim Oliver Jr. threw for 421 yards at Hope College on November 6, 2004. Hargraves five touchdown passes is the most for a Trine play in a game since Eric Watt threw five against Case Western in the NCAA Playoffs in 2009.
Trine will host Wisconsin-River Falls on September 17 for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff.