ANGOLA, Ind. - In a tale of two half's, the Trine University football team mounted a second half comeback, defeating Taylor (IN) 28-13 in their final non-conference game of the year. The Thunder end their two-game losing streak to improve to 2-2 on the season.
Taylor, who received votes in the most recent NAIA national poll, jumped out to an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter after the Thunder offense was able to only manage 23 yards in the opening quarter. The Trojans used a short field to drive just 32 yards for the games first touchdown after the game had been delayed an hour because of heavy rains and lightening. Near the end of the quarter Taylor converted on a 46-yard field goal by Alec Eichert.
Neither team was able to find the end zone in the second quarter. Taylor would have the best opportunity late in the half after the Thunder muffed a punt return attempt and the Trojans were able to recover at the Trine 26. On fourth down, Trine senior Myron Puryear (Canton, Mich./Plymouth) was able to partially block the 39-yard field goal attempt, as the Thunder trailed 10-0 at halftime.
At the start of the second half the rain began clear and the sun began to shine down on the Thunder. On the ninth play of their opening possession of the half, senior quarterback Ryan Hargraves (Taylor, Mich./Truman) found fellow senior JaVontae Hence (Elkhart, Ind./Concord) down the right sideline for a 50-yard touchdown.
After the Trine defense forced a three-and-out, Hence would again deliver for the Thunder on the punt return. Hence took the kick back 79 yards, as he dodged through the Trojan defense, breaking several tackles and receiving one final block on the Taylor punter from the Thunder return team to send Hence to the house. Hence broke the school record for the longest punt return which was set by Aaron Selking on September 11, 2010 when he took back a 75-yard punt at Bluffton.
The Trine defense would again step up with Taylor driving deep into their zone. Taylor pushed the ball down to the Trine 22 before the defense came up with back-to-back incomplete passes. On fourth down, the special teams came up big again, forcing the Trojan kicker to miss wide left from 39 yards outs.
Trine would come right back with another scoring drive, going 78 yards on 12 plays, capped off by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Hargraves to junior Jeff Harbrecht (Lowell, Ind./Lowell). Hargraves completed two third-down conversions earlier in the drive on a pair 23-yard completions to sophomore Anthony Yoder (Goshen, Ind./Concord).
The ensuing possession for the Trojans would again put them deep in Trine territory, but a 15-yard personal foul on third down, forced them to settle for a 36-yard field goal.
The Thunder would put the game away on the following possession as they needed just four plays before senior Mike Inge (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Northern) broke free on a 49-yard run, the longest of his career, that saw him burst through the Taylor defense.
Taylor's next possession would see the Trine defense step up again as they forced an incomplete pass on a fourth-and-18. After Trine had to punt with 1:37 left on the clock, freshman Travis Smith (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston) recorded his first career interception on third down, to cement the win for the Thunder.
Inge led the Thunder with a career-, season-, and game-high 130 yards on the ground. Hargraves had his best game of the season in the pocket completing 11-of-16 passes for 189 yards and two scores. Hence finished the afternoon with 109 receiving yards on four catches while returning three punts for 92 yards.
Defensively, junior Louis Danesi (Santa Fe, Texas/Santa Fe) made 10 tackles (six solo) including two solo sacks. Sophomore Tyler Guzy (Coldwater, Mich./Coldwater) and freshman Mike Spears (Kendallville, Ind./East Noble) both finished with nine tackles for the day.
Trine ran the ball a season-high 42 times for 135 yards while the Trojans finished with just 75 yards on the ground. Taylor out-gained the Thunder in the air with 211 yards compared to 189 for the Thunder. Trine converted on 9-of-15 third down chances while Taylor was able to convert on 7-of-18 opportunities.
It was the first meeting between the two teams since October 5, 2002, as Trine won their fourth straight game against the Trojans. The Thunder now lead the all-time series 6-3.
Trine will begin conference play when they travel to Kalamazoo on September 29 for a 1:00 p.m. game.