With darkening skies looming, there were concerns about lightning Saturday.
But it was the Central College offense that lit up the skies in 28-point second quarter of a 45-19 comeback non-conference football triumph over DePauw University (Ind.).
The Dutch (2-0) were slow out of the blocks, falling behnd 13-0. DePauw showed some strength up front and also took advantage of Central mistakes, including an errant punt snap that helped set up its second score. The Dutch came up empty on their first three possessions, mustering just 29 yards. Quarterback Blaine Hawkins (junior, Ankeny) connected on only one of his first four throws.
"We knew they had a very good defensive line," coach Jeff McMartin said. "Last year they sacked us five times so we knew were in for a great challenge. We didn't have great field position but really our struggles in the punt game put us in a jam there."
Then Hawkins hit 16 of his next 20 passes as Central scored on all four second-quarter possessions for a 28-13 halftime lead. He had 210 passing yards and two TD passes by intermission.
Meanwhile, after squeezing out only 24 rushing yards in the first quarter, the ground game came to life as well, finishing with 199 yards on the day, as Central totaled 519 yards offense to DePauw's 255. Hawkins completed 23 of 34 passes for 320 yards with one interception and three touchdowns. He moved into fourth place on Central's career list for TD passes with 44 and into sixth in passing yards with 4,206.
"I think our tempo helped us," McMartin said. "That was a big part of the game. Just being able to stay on the field, move the ball. When you're rushing the passer a lot, that can wear you out. We were able to get the ball off, get first downs, and then run another play. I think that wore them down and allowed us to run the ball better in the second half."
Running back Jason Hopp (sophomore, Earlham) gained a career-high 55 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, while freshman Cameron Bannister (State Center, West Marshall HS), a quarterback making his collegiate debut, raced for 54 yards on eight carries, including a twisting 10-yard scoring run. Hawkins gained 50 yards and a TD on 11 carries.
Wide receiver Tanner Schminke (junior, Boone) had a career-high seven catches for 119 yards while Hunter Robinson (senior, Lisbon) had five for 91 with a touchdown and Erik Knaack (junior, Reinbeck, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) had four receptions for 51 yards and a TD.
"Tanner (Schminke) is an explosive player and he did a nice job," McMartin said. "We've got a nice group of receivers this year. That's certainly a luxury for Blaine."
Robinson also put the Dutch in business in the second quarter with a 39-yard punt return to the DePauw 21.
While Hawkins was sacked once, the Dutch defense recorded four sacks. DePauw completed 19 of 31 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown while rushing 37 times for 64 yards and two scores.
Linebackers Connor Lewin (senior, Stillman Valley, Ill.) and Drew Smith (junior, Joliet, Ill., West HS) each had eight tackles while safety Jordy Borman (senior, Eagan, Minn.) and cornerback Ryan Sprain (senior, Waverly, Waverly-Shell Rock HS) had seven stops. Sprain was starting in place of Danny Anderson (senior, Boone) due to injury. Linebacker Tate O'Tool (senior, Fort Dodge, St. Edmond HS) had six stops and blocked an extra point. Freshman Dre George (Fresno, Texas, South Houston HS) came off the bench for a fourth-quarter interception.
"We got sacks," McMartin said. "We got some pressure. We got them out of the pocket. (Assistant) coach (Nick) Mulder did a really good job of coverage calls. I thought we were able to challenge the looks we were getting. We made him hold onto the ball a little bit longer and we took away some of the things they wanted to do. I thought we made some really good adjustments."
Central is off next week, then opens American Rivers Conference play with its homecoming game Sept. 28 against Loras College. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium.