October 11, 2014
By: Ryan Schadewald, sports information assistant
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - The Bluffton University football team made the long trip to Terre Haute, Ind. worth it as they pulled off the upset over the previously-unbeaten Rose-Hulman Engineers, 31-17. The Beavers were up against the top-ranked offense in NCAA Division III in total yards and passing yards per game coming into the contest and they were up to the task. Bluffton and RHIT now both sit at 2-1 in conference play, tied for third behind Franklin and MSJ. The Beavers are 2-3 overall while Rose-Hulman slipped to 4-1.
Both teams started the first quarter quietly, each garnering only a field goal in the opening 15 minutes. The Beavers were able to get the offense rolling in the second stanza, however, as a 34-yard touchdown run for senior Eric Fox (Brunswick) put the Beavers up 10-3 early in the second quarter. Then after Bluffton recovered a fumble on the ensuing Engineer drive, a quick 40-yard strike from sophomore Conner Sheehan (Monroeville, Ind./Heritage) to senior Donovan Brown (Cincinnati/Purcell Marian) got Bluffton to the 11, before quarterback Nick Sheehan (Monroeville, Ind./Heritage) finished the quick drive with an 11-yard TD run for a 17-3 lead just five minutes into the second stanza.
Rose-Hulman answered with 2:20 to play in the half as the Engineers scored on a 1-yard run from Michael Iacono, making the score 17-10 at the break.
Bluffton opened the third quarter by going 39 yards in eight plays, but missed a 43-yard field goal that would have made it a two-possession lead. After Rose turned the ball over on downs, Bluffton was able to respond with a 12-play, 69-yard drive that ended on a 12-yard pass from Sheehan to Brown which pushed the Beaver lead back to two scores. Rose-Hulman responded with a quick four-play scoring drive which made the score 24-17.
Following a quick three-and-out by the visitors, Engineer quarterback Austin Swenson threw an interception to Beaver linebacker Miguel Alicia (Westerville/South) that the sophomore returned 47 yards to the house for a 31-17 advantage with just over 30 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Rose-Hulman drove the ball for 15 plays early in the fourth quarter, hoping for a chance to get back to within striking distance. However, the Beavers were able to force a fumble at the Engineer five-yard line to regain possession and the last of the momentum. The home team was unable to get past midfield on its final two touches as Bluffton handed the Engineers their first loss of the season.
Bluffton senior signal-caller Nick Sheehan had a big day, completing 19 of his 29 passes for 204 yards with a touchdown pass, as well as his 11-yard TD run. Sheehan helped two receivers to over 100 yards on the contest, as Jack Tomlinson (Westerville/South) caught 10 passes for 105 yards and Donovan Brown added five receptions for 104 yards. Senior Eric Fox had a solid day running the ball, as well, with 86 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tyrone White (Orrville) led the Beavers with 11 total tackles, two of them being for losses. Brad Swavel (Marion/Ridgedale) had nine tackles on the game to go along with his interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
The Beavers were able to hold the home team to just 353 yards of total offense, which was almost 300 yards under their season average of 622 yards per game. Bluffton had 341 yards of their own, with 244 of them being through the air. Turnovers also played a huge factor in this game as the Engineers turned it over five times while the visitors did not commit a turnover. Bluffton dominated the time of possession (37:00-23:00) and both teams converted on three of their four trips into the red zone. In addition to the five takeways, the Beaver defense finished the contest with 11 breakups.
The Beavers will return to action next Saturday, Oct. 18, as they head to Richmond, Ind., to take on the Earlham College Quakers! Kick-off is set for 1:30 p.m.