Sam Fioroni rushed for a career-high 213 yards off 26 carries and Max Paulus threw three touchdown passes to lead Denison to a 42-14 victory over Hiram on Saturday night from Deeds Field-Piper Stadium in Granville, Ohio.
The Hiram coaching staff was astutely aware of Fioroni's abilities after he rushed for 200 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime last season at Henry Field. This time, his big-play capabilities, combined with the efficiency of Paulus, helped the Denison offense rack up over 40 points for the second consecutive week.
Behind the gaudy numbers posted by the DU offense was the stingy performance put on by the Big Red defense. Hiram quarterback Brandon Hanna is one of the top dual threats in the North Coast Athletic Conference and the Big Red defense had their hands full all night trying to contain the fleet-of-foot, Hanna. The sophomore threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another 89 yards. Despite the big numbers on the stat sheet, they only led to 14 points for the Terrier offense.
The Big Red jumped out to a 28-0 lead midway through the second quarter after Paulus tossed two touchdown passes to fullback Steven Lilley and a third to Fioroni. The fourth TD of the opening half came on a 1-yard plunge from Lilley. The touchdowns were the first of Lilley's career.
Late in the second quarter, Hiram would mount a comeback after Hanna hit Richard Simpson on a seam route for 54-yards, capping off a quick 3-play, 57-yard drive. They would get the ball back with just over one minute to play in the first half and this time Hanna would find Shaun Zalewski on a two-yard touchdown pass, slicing the DU lead in half as the two teams entered the third quarter.
Neither squad would reach the end zone in the third after both teams had four stalled drives in the period. In the fourth quarter the Big Red would effectively slam the door on any potential Hiram rally when Fioroni broke free for a 28-yard touchdown run with 12:21 remaining in the contest.
Denison's final score would come with 5:49 left and it was one of a handful of circus plays on the night. Faced with a third and two from the Hiram 17-yard line, Fioroni took the handoff and burst up the middle for a 12-yard gain where he was met by Hiram's James Romanowski, brother of Denison starting left tackle, Joe Romanowski. The hit jarred the ball loose at the five yard line but Denison wide receiver Lucas Graham was there to scoop up the football and scamper into the end zone, untouched, setting the final score at 42-14.
Paulus was 13-of-16 for 104 yards and three TD's. He did not take a sack and he also posted a career-high 96 yards rushing off 7 carries. His 44-yard run in the first quarter led to Denison's second touchdown of the game. Senior wide receiver Braden Layer led DU with four receptions for 73 yards.
Fioroni's big night pushed his season rushing total to 443 yards in three games. He is averaging 147.7 yards rushing per game and is leading the NCAC. In his last two games against the Terriers he has piled up 413 yards off 48 carries. That's an average of 8.6 yards per carry.
Hanna was 30-of-51 in the passing department for 241 yards and two scores. He accounted for 330 yards of total offense. His favorite target was Simpson who caught nine passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.
Denison was led defensively by senior cornerback Drew Clanin and junior safety Alex Sycher. Clanin posted 11 tackles, nine of which were solo to go along with three pass break-ups. He also totaled 40 punt return yards off four attempts. Sycher led all players with 12 tackles and two passes defended.
The Big Red improves to 2-1 and 1-0 in the NCAC while Hiram falls to 1-2 and 1-1 in conference play. DU will be back in action next Saturday (Sept. 24) when they host Case Western Reserve at 1 p.m.