By Robert Youngs, Jr.
KALAMAZOO - After two solid victories to open the 2013 campaign, the Kalamazoo College football team returned home to Angell Field to take on the Eagles of Benedictine University. The result wasn't what the Hornets had hoped for, as the visitors soared away triumphant, 28-23.
"I like the way we made a game of it at the end," said Kalamazoo College Head Coach Jamie Zorbo. "We've got to clean some things up, and we'll do that."
Two late third quarter touchdowns by the Eagles and an early fourth quarter score were just a tad too much for the hosts to come back from. Eagles quarterback Cyle Schultz connected with wideout Blake Anders for two of those tallies, and Schultz found pay dirt with his feet from five yards away.
Kalamazoo wasn't going quietly, and it responded, trailing 28-10 in the final stanza. Starting from its own 25, the K offense put together a 14-play, 75-yard drive in 3:30 that culminated in a touchdown pass from signal caller Justin Danzy (Southfield/Southfield) to Cameron Shegos (Burton/Flint Kearsley).
Following a 3-play, -3 yard drive in 1:32 for the Eagles, things looked even bleaker after a Benedictine punt trapped the Hornets at their own 10 yard line. With excellent blocking, the Kalamazoo offense surprised everyone when Elijah Hamilton-Wray (East Lansing/East Lansing) took a draw handoff and went 90 yards to the house, cutting the score to 28-23.
"We busted one at the end of the half last week," said Zorbo. "It's something we went to and that's the kind of player [Hamilton-Wray] is -- if he gets the edge, he's pretty tough to catch."
"It was a nice play to spark us."
Despite the late heroics, K didn't have enough timeouts to get the ball back, and two onside kick attempts weren't successful, either.
The Hornets began strong and opened the scoring in the second quarter on an eight-yard strike from quarterback Justin Danzy to Cameron Shegos, who made a highlight-reel catch in the southwest corner of the south end zone at Angell Field, keeping both feet in the field of play while doing so.
Benedictine didn't waste much clock in answering, engineering a a six-play, 29-yard drive in 3:29 to tied the game 7-7 with 9:54 remaining in the first half. Both teams traded empty drives to end the half.
Statistically, Kalamazoo churned out 438 yards of offense and averaged 6.3 yards per rush and 8.2 yards per pass completion. Also, K was 7-of-17 on third down and enjoyed 27:17 in time of possession, only five minutes less than the visitors.
Danzy led the Hornets with his arm in the setback, completing 35-of-50 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Danzy was only sacked once, had a long completion of 31, and finished with a passer rating of 127.4.
Hamilton-Wray led the ground attack, rushing six times for 98 and a score. Erran Briggs ran eight times for 38 yards. Danzy also chipped in with 10 attempts for 15 yards.
"[Danzy's] a smart kid and he's going to make good decisions with the football," Zorbo said. "He's been doing that for the last couple weeks, and he's getting better."
Defensively, linebackers Connor Rzeznik (Walled Lake/Walled Lake Central) and Blake Simon (Grand Ledge/Grand Ledge) had seven and five tackles, respectively. Simon had two tackles for loss. Ryan Gregory and Alex Burkholder each had pass a break-up.
"For the most part, I thought we did a good job containing their running game -- they have a really talented running back," said Zorbo. "I thought our front seven did a pretty good job of shutting down their run."
Kalamazoo falls to 2-1 with the loss and travels to play the University of Chicago on Sept. 28. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. Central). The Hornets will remain on the road for their MIAA opener Oct. 5 at Trine.