September 24, 2016By: Colton Steiner, sports information assistant
FRANKLIN, Ind. - The Bluffton University football team took on the #20 Franklin College Grizzlies in a crucial Heartland Conference matchup. It took until the clock read all zeros, but Franklin was able to escape with a 44-38 win after an unsuccessful hail mary try by COLBY SPIECE (Paulding/Wayne Trace) as time ran out. The loss was Bluffton's first of the year (3-1, 1-1 HCAC) while the Grizzlies improved to 3-1 and 2-0 in the conference.
Bluffton made the first mark on the scoreboard after JORDAN WATKINS (Reynoldsburg) hit a 19-yard field goal less than five minutes into the game. The Grizzlies would answer when LEE WROBLEWSKI hauled in a five-yard touchdown pass from CHASE BURTON to give Franklin a 7-3 lead in the early minutes. The Beavers made it 10-7 after DANTE CARROLL (Gahanna/Lincoln) ran it in from one yard out for his fifth touchdown of the season. At the beginning of the second quarter, Franklin's JORDAN BROWN caught a 17-yard pass from Burton which put the home team back on top. With the score at 14-10, Bluffton answered with 1:33 left in the half after CONNER SHEEHAN (Monroeville, Ind./Heritage) connected with MICAH ROBERSON (Ada) from 20 yards out on a gutsy 4th and four call. The Beavers received the ball to start the second half but an interception by NATHAN WARMAN gave the Grizzles great field position inside Bluffton's 10-yard line. On the very first play of the drive, Franklin scored to take a 21-17 lead as Burton found DEONTEZ ALEXANDER in the end zone. The Beavers would not let the turnover get to them as they responded to take a 24-21 lead after Sheehan connected with KEYON CAMDEN (Wayne/Elmwood) for his first receiving touchdown of the season. Following a Franklin punt, Dante Carroll coughed up the football and Franklin recovered it. The Grizzlies again took advantage and scored off a 31-yard TD pass from Lee Wroblewski to TANNER WROBLEWSKI for a 27-24 lead thanks to a blocked extra point. Another Bluffton interception helped the Grizzlies take a 34-24 lead heading into the fourth quarter. There was still plenty of fight in the Beavers as they hit paydirt with a 17-yard pass to RAPHAEL DELL (Cincinnati/Hughes) who would find the pylon to cut Franklin's lead to 34-31. However, Franklin answered quickly, marching 80 yards down the field as TY'RONTE FILES broke out for a 45-yard touchdown scamper which pushed their lead to 41-31. After Bluffton was forced to punt, the Grizzlies made it 44-31 on a 31-yard field goal by TANNER ANDERSON with 1:43 left in regulation. The Beavers quickly went down the field in less than a minute with Sheehan hitting Dell in the end zone for the second time of the quarter to make it 44-38. While Bluffton wasn't able to recover the onside kick, they would get one more chance with the football after forcing Franklin to punt with time still left on the clock. The Beavers took over at their own three-yard line with only 10 seconds remaining. Bluffton would gain 36 yards before Roberson was able to get out of bounds with less than one second left in the game. Colby Spiece came in and attempted to throw the game winner, but it was intercepted at the Franklin 10-yard line as the Grizzlies held on for the 44-38 victory. Leading the way was offensively for Bluffton was Conner Sheehan who connected on 40-of-51 of his passes for 463 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Sheehan's 40 completions and 463 yards passing obliterated the former school marks of 28 completions (Dustin Fox) and 411 yards passing (Joel Parrett). They also established new team marks for the same categories. Dante Carroll went for 81 yards on 15 carries. Micah Roberson hauled in a school-record 18 receptions for 175 yards with a TD. Roberson had previously tied the record for most receptions last year against Franklin (14) which was set by Mike Morris in 1981. Raphael Dell also had a stellar day receiving as he counted nine balls for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, the Beavers were led by freshman STANLEY WILLIAMS (Sterling Heights, Mich./Chippewa Valley) who notched 11 tackles on the day. TYLER SHOWALTER (Haviland/Wayne Trace) also contributed with nine tackles while senior LINKOLN LAROCHE (Dola/Hardin Northern) added two tackles for losses. Bluffton's 604 yards of total offense was the most since the Beavers went for 609 against Hiram in 1999. The visitors moved the chains 31 times, compared to just 20 for the Grizzlies. Both teams were 5-of-5 on red zone scoring opportunities and the Beavers finished with an eight-minute edge in time of possession (34-26). The three Bluffton turnovers proved to be the difference as Franklin needed just eight plays to turn them into 20 points. Bluffton will have a bye next week before traveling to Anderson on Saturday, Oct. 8. They return to Alumni Field for Homecoming weekend as they face Coach Dorrel's alma mater, Hanover, at 1:30 on Saturday, Oct. 15. You can follow the action on our Twitter page @Bluffton_sports. -BEAVERS-