LAGRANGE, Ga. - It came down to the end for the Trine University football team as they defeated LaGrange College 20-14 in their first overtime game since 2007. The Thunder improve to 4-1 on the season.
Despite going three and out in their first possession, sophomore Blaek Combs (Rushville, Ind./Rushville) came up big on defense as he intercepted the Panthers pass on their first play of their possession giving the Thunder the ball deep in LaGrange territory. The pick was Combs first of the season. After four straight rushing plays, junior quarterback Ryan Hargraves (Taylor, Mich./Truman) found the end zone from 13 yards out scoring his first rushing touchdown of the season.
The Trine defense stood tall on LaGrange's next possession forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down deep in Thunder territory. Both sides struggled to get their offenses going after that as both sides went three and out over the next three possessions.
Midway through the second quarter, the Panther were driving and the Thunder defense again came up big. On first and goal from the Trine 10 yard line, LaGrange quarterback Ed Russ fumbles the snap and senior Kyle Sherwood (Hanover, Mich./Hanover Horton) recovered the ball at the 18 yard line ending the Panther's drive.
Neither team would score for nearly two full quarters until the Panthers finally found the end zone with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter. Aaron Duncan ran the ball in from nine yards out, after initially being stopped for only about a two yard gain, Duncan then spun and broke a tackle for the score. On the ensuing kickoff, junior Ja Vontae Hence (Elkhart, Ind./Concord) returned the kick to about the Panther's 45, but was called back because of a personal foul on the Thunder.
Trine's longest drive of the game came early in the fourth quarter. Senior Kent Biller (Nappanee, Ind./Northwood) setup the Thunder with a 33 yard run down to the Panthers four yard line. Biller went down with an injury and was replaced by junior Devin Leas (Poneto, Ind./Southern Wells). Leas took it from there scoring from four yards out to put the Thunder on top. LaGrange answered right back as they also would also have their longest drive of the afternoon as they went 11 plays ending with Russ running in for the score from one yard out to tie the game with 2:14 left in the game.
The ensuing kickoff was surrounded by controversy as sophomore Myron Puryear fumbled the ball in the end zone. Puryear picked up the ball and was tackled by the Panthers seven yards into the end zone. LaGrange thought they had a safety, believing Puryear had tried to return the dropped kick, while the Thunder felt Puryear was simply down for a touchback. After the officials gathered to discuss the play for an extended period of time, it was ruled a touchback.
Seemingly content to run clock out, the Thunder ran the ball on three straight plays. Looking for a little trickery, Hargraves dropped back as his long pass attempt to junior Will Chrystal (Portage, Mich. /Northern) was incomplete. Forced to punt, sophomore Nick Muir went back to kick, but for the second straight week the punt was blocked with the Panthers recovering it at the Trine 38. LaGrange originally lined up for the 55 yard field goal attempt, but was moved to a 50 yard attempt after a Trine penalty. It wouldn't matter as the kick was short and the game went to overtime.
After the first two pass attempts by the Panthers fell incomplete, it was Combs again who came up big for the Thunder. After the pass was initially tipped, Combs came up with the ball and setting up Trine for the win. After runs by Hence and Leas seemed to be setting up the Thunder for the winning kick, it was junior Michael Inge (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills North) rushing straight up the gut that sent the Thunder home with the victory. The carry was just Inge's fifth of the game.
Biller led the offense with his ninth 100 yard rushing game of his career finishing the day with 113 yards. Biller now ranks third on the all-time career rushing list at Trine, just 44 yards out of second. Hargraves finished his day going 10-for-15 for 74 yards. Chrystal led the Trine receivers with 40 yards on two catches while Hence hauled in three catches for 20 yards.
Junior Ben Mohr (Boggstown, Ind./Triton Central) led the Thunder defense with 10 tackles (six solo). Senior Aaron Shoemaker (Onsted, Mich./Onsted) had eight tackles (seven solo). Freshman Aaron Wolf (Huntington, Ind./Huntington North) led all players with a game-high two sacks.
The game was the closest scoring game for the Thunder since a 21-16 win over Adrian in 2009. Ironically it was also the first overtime game since the Thunder also beat Adrian on October 13, 2007 23-20. It was Trine's eight overtime game in school history improving their record to 5-3 in extra periods.
Trine will return to conference play when they travel to Alma College on October 15 for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.