By: Griffin Kuras, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - It took a little Hanover to beat Hanover and that is just what Bluffton used on a frigid Homecoming Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. The Bluffton University football team, under the direction of Head Coach Denny Dorrel, defeated the Panthers, 20-14, for Bluffton's first victory over Hanover since 2005 and just the second since 1990. Coach Dorrel, a 2001 Hanover college alum, and defensive coordinator Rashawn West were both at Hanover the past two seasons working under current Head Coach Steve Baudendistel.
Hanover was the first team on the board with a seven-yard touchdown run from senior running back Tim Sutton. With the first quarter winding down, senior quarterback Nick Sheehan (Monroeville, Ind./Heritage) threw a short pass to Eric Fox (Brunswick) who soared into the end zone for a six-yard scoring reception. The two teams were tied 7-7 going into the second stanza.
The second quarter was when the majority of the scoring occurred. Quarterback Trent Downs (Independence, KY) took off on a designed quarterback run and went untouched up the middle for a 14-yard TD. With 9:07 to play in the half, Bluffton got a shot at a field goal with the heavy wind to their backs as freshman kicker Jordan Watkins (Reynoldsburg) knocked through a 29-yard three-pointer to cut the lead down to four points. After getting the ball back with 7:33 left in the half, the Beavers used a 10-play drive that drained over five minutes to march down the field and score on pitch and catch through traffic for a nice 14-yard touchdown to Jack Tomlinson (Westerville).
Bluffton added to its 17-14 lead with another Watkins field goal early in period three, however, the game quickly turned into defensive battle as the teams were fighting for every yard and the best field position they could get. A muffed punt and a pickoff by the Beavers on Hanover's final two touches helped Bluffton secure the victory as the home team stormed the field to celebrate Coach Dorrel's first victory as a head coach.
Eric Fox powered the Bluffton offense with his third game of the season over 100 yards. The senior tailback churned out 139 yards on 34 carries to help Bluffton move the chains 15 times and he scored a touchdown. Sophomore Micah Roberson (Ada) paced the Beaver receivers with 91 yards on six catches. Seniors Jack Tomlinson and Donovan Brown (Cincinnati/Purcell Marian) added four receptions apiece for 75 and 40 yards, respectively, including a 50-yard catch for Tomlinson. Senior signal-caller Nicholas Sheehan completed 16-of-35 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown.
The Bluffton defense was led by junior defensive end Ryan Aelker (New Bavaria/Holdate) who finished with seven tackles, 4.5 TFL's, two breakups and two quarterback hurries. Seniors Brad Swavel (Morral/Ridgedale) and Ben Schamp (St. Marys/Memorial) racked up nine and eight stops, respectively. Swavel had a seven-yard sack to go along with a breakup and 2.5 TFL's, while Schamp added a TFL. Sophomore safety Tyrone White (Orrville) picked off Hanover and returned it 19 yards to help seal the victory. Matt Holden (Convoy/Crestview), who did a great job in his first start of the year, broke up three passes and added a quarterback hit that ultimately knocked the Panthers starting quarterback out of the game.
Bluffton finished with 376 yards of total offense, including 219 through the air and 157 on the ground. The Beaver defense came up huge, holding the Panthers to a paltry 241 yards of offense. Hanover struggled to move the chains on third down, converting just three of 15 opportunities, while Bluffton converted on 9-of-22 chances. The Beavers scored on four of their five trips into the red zone, helping Bluffton put up a 13-minute edge in time of possession. A pair of Jordan Watkins field goals proved to be the difference as the freshman connected from 29 and 31 yards.
The Beavers will be back on the road next Saturday, Oct. 11, when they travel to play Rose-Hulman. The contest in Terre Haute, Ind. is slated for 1:30 p.m.