Bluffton 23, Earlham 6
Bluffton rushes for 246 yards in 23-6 Homecoming win over Earlham
October 1, 2011
By: Josh Bruner, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University football hosted Earlham College on Saturday, October 1 in its 2011 Homecoming contest. Bluffton started out strong, putting up 10 points in the first quarter to take an early 10-0 lead. The Beavers led 13-3 going into the final 15 minutes of the game. Bluffton added another 10 to the scoreboard, while holding the Quakers to just a field goal for a 23-6 victory. Bluffton improved to 1-4 overall (1-2 HCAC) while the Quakers remain winless at 0-5 overall (0-3 HCAC).
The Beaver defense was on lockdown to start the game as it held the Quakers to just four yards on three plays for the opening drive. Bluffton took over and slowly pounded the ball down the field as Airic Steagall (Hillsboro) led the way, running it 11 times for 40 yards while setting up a 33-yard Austin Sweeney (Adrian, Mich./Whitmer) field goal to end the eight-minute possession for the Beavers.
Bluffton once again held Earlham as the defense allowed just 10 yards. Steagall led another drive, going in from a yard out to push the Bluffton lead to 10-0 as the time expired in the first.
The Beaver defense shut down the Earlham offense to start the second quarter. The Quakers were held to only one yard on five plays before a Geoff Yost (North Canton/Jackson) forced fumble gave the Beavers the ball inside the red zone at Earlham's own 17-yard line. The Earlham defense forced the Beavers to kick a field goal, making it 13-0 with under 11 minutes left in the half.
Earlham got on the scoreboard with a 42-yard field goal from Ryan Acosta with 39 ticks remaining to make the score 13-3 at the break.
Oscar Vazquez-Dyer (Findlay/Carey) came up with an interception late in the third to give the Beavers the ball to start the final quarter. Junior Jason Brown (Napoleon) led a 60-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. The possession started with a 25-yard run from Brown. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Wright (Troy) capped it with a one-yard scoring plunge. The Beavers took a 20-3 lead with 13 minutes left to play.
Earlham responded by driving the ball down the field and splitting the uprights as Acosta once again made it a two possession game, 20-6, in favor of the home team. A Bluffton fumble on the punt snap gave the Quakers the ball on the Beavers own 25-yard line. The Bluffton defense once again came up huge, thanks to a pickoff from Shane Hubbard (Johnstown/Big Walnut) in the end zone with only five minutes to go.
Steagall continued to bulldoze his way down the field, picking up 75 yards on just five carries, including a 43-yarder which led to another Beaver field goal. Sweeney punched this one in from 24 yards for 23-6 lead with just 55 seconds left to play. The Quakers moved the ball down the field, but a Spencer Smith (Wilmington) interception on the Bluffton 11-yard line sealed the victory.
Bluffton dominated the Quakers, gaining 306 yards on the game, compared to a paltry 186 for the visitors. The Beavers went for 246 yards on the ground while Earlham managed just nine yards of rushing on 31 attempts. The nine yards marks the lowest recorded rushing total ever by a Bluffton opponent. Both teams proved efficient in the red-zone with the Beavers scoring on 5-of-6 opportunities while the Quakers were 2-of-3 inside the red-zone. The difference proved to be turnovers. The Beavers recovered one of Earlham's six fumbles while picking off the visitors four times. Bluffton last came up with four interceptions in the Beavers 23-15 win over Kalamazoo on Sept. 27, 2008.
The Beaver offense was led by Steagall who ran for a career-high 157 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries. It marked the first 150-yard rushing game by a Bluffton back since Ben Dodds ran for 157 against Manchester in 2005. Chris Byrd (Detroit, MI/Detroit Univ. Prep) added 32 yards on the ground and went 3-of-8 for 60 yards through the air. Brown chipped in with 73 yards rushing on just 16 attempts. Shane Swisher (Findlay/McComb) hauled in a 47-yard reception. The Bluffton defense was paced by Justin Hahn (Rocky River) who stuffed the Quakers 10 times with one tackle for loss. Yost added six tackles, two in the backfield.
The Beavers will be on the road next Saturday, October 8, when they travel to Manchester to continue their HCAC slate with the Spartans. The game is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.