BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University football team started the 2012 season off on the right foot Saturday, Sept. 1, posting a 20-0 shutout against the visiting Kenyon College Lords. A balanced offense and stout defense helped pace the Beavers (1-0) despite rainy conditions and a lightening delay that lasted an hour. It marked the first blanking by a Bluffton football squad since 2004 when the Beavers routed rival Defiance 30-0.
After recovering a fumble deep in Kenyon territory, junior quarterback Tyler Wright (Troy) took the ball into the end zone on a nine-yard scamper. Austin Sweeney (Adrian, Mich./Whitmer) tacked on the extra point to give the Beavers a 7-0 lead just four minutes into the game.
The defenses held until Wright completed passes of 11 and 25 yards to Ryan Sabin (Canal Winchester) and Drake Harrington (West Bloomfield, Mich.), respectively. Those completions set up a 27-yard field goal by Sweeney, extending the Bluffton lead to 10-0 early in the second quarter.
On the ensuing Kenyon possession, Preston Huddleston (Benton Harbor, Mich./Eau Claire) and Hunter Bosch (Elida/Shawnee) stopped Kenyon running back Dan Shannon short of the first down marker on fourth. The turnover on downs set up what would be the longest play of the game when Wright connected with freshman running back Calib Alexander (Ocala, Fla./St. John Lutheran) for a 43-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline. After another successful extra point, the Beavers led 17-0 with 10 minutes remaining in the half.
Neither team would score again until Sweeney's 25-yard field goal attempt went through the uprights with 12:09 remaining in the fourth quarter. That kick proved to be the final score of the game as the Beaver defense held the Lords to just 29 total fourth quarter yards and no points, sealing the 20-0 victory.
Wright led the way for the Beavers, completing 24 of 32 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown. It marked the first 250-yard passing game for Bluffton since John Hazen threw for 259 against Kalamazoo in 2009. Wright also managed 20 rushing yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Junior Airic Steagall (Hillsboro) led the Bluffton rushing attack with 76 yards on 15 carries while junior C.J. Sewell (Lima/Shawnee) and Robert Beaver (Detroit, Mich./Andover) rushed for 29 and 22 yards, respectively. Shawn Frost (Edson/Mt. Giliad) led the Beavers in receiving yards with 60 on five catches. He also racked up 56 yards on eight punt returns
Defensively, Josh Runda (Lima/Bath), Joe Maldonado (Dade City, Fla./Zephyrhills), and Nick Smith (Troy) each tallied six tackles while four of Runda's were of the solo variety. Ben Shamp (St. Marys/Memorial) racked up two solo tackles and a sack for the Beavers.
Bluffton dominated the Lords with 422 total yards, compared to just 145 for the visitors. The Beavers posted a marked 255-20 edge on passing yards. The home team finished with a 36:18 to 23:42 edge in time of possession and converted 7-of-18 third down opportunities, with Kenyon just 2-of-14. Bluffton moved the chains 24 times and the Beaver defense limited Kenyon to just six first downs.
The Beavers will be back in action on Saturday, Sept. 8 (3 p.m.) at Baldwin-Wallace. The next home game for Bluffton is slated for Saturday, Sept. 22, against Mount St. Joseph. Game time will be 1:30 p.m.