Bluffton 56, Hanover 10
October 3, 2015
By: Ryan Schadewald, sports information assistant
HANOVER, Ind. - The Bluffton University football team dominated from the opening whistle, hanging up 579 total yards as the visitors defeated the Hanover College Panthers, 56-10, on Saturday, Oct. 3. It was the second in as many tries for Head Coach Denny Dorrell against his alma mater as Bluffton’s chief. The win pushed the Beavers to 2-2 (1-1 HCAC), while the Panthers fell to 0-5, 0-3 in conference. It marked just the third win by a Bluffton football team over Hanover since 1990 and it was the most points put up by the Beavers wince a 59-7 win at Manchester in 2005!
After a quick Hanover three and out, the Beavers took the ball and drove 68 yards on seven plays, finishing with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Conner Sheehan (Monroeville, Ind./Heritage) to Micah Roberson (Ada) for a quick 7-0 lead. The Panthers responded quickly with a 65-yard scoring toss on the first play of the ensuing drive to tie it at 7-7. Bluffton wouldn’t flinch as the Beavers went 83 yards on just five plays, capped by Sheehan’s second TD pass of the day, this one to Korbin Showalter (Haviland/Wayne Trace) from 28 yards out and the Beavers led 14-7. There was no looking back from there when the second man in the 1 and 1-A QB combo for the visitors, Colby Speice (Paulding/Wayne Trace), led an 11-play, 70-yard scoring drive, wrapped up with a Devante Thomas-Wright (Kings Clinton Twp., Mich./Chippewa Valley) scoring scamper and the Beavers led 21-7 after just one quarter.
The second stanza included more of the same as the Beavers scored on their fourth straight possession. This time, Sheehan found a new target in reigning NCAA sack champion Ryan Aelker (New Bavaria/Holgate), who lined up as a tight end to score his first career offensive touchdown while giving his team a 28-7 lead. After Hanover added a field goal and the Beavers were forced to punt, freshman Isaac Zickafoose (Middlebury, Ind./Northridge) would pick one off deep in Panther territory to set up the second Sheehan to Roberson connection of the game. The onslaught continued with Thomas-Wright’s second score of the day from five yards out and Bluffton led 42-10, where the score would remain entering the halftime break.
Speice took advantage of another opportunity to open the second half as he guided the offense down the field, finishing with a 25-yard touchdown scamper from Thomas-Wright, his third of the game, making the score 49-10. The final score of the day came on the second possession of the quarter as Sheehan hit Showalter for his fifth passing score of the afternoon. Bluffton was content to run the ball in the fourth quarter to finish off the easy 56-10 victory.
The stat sheet shows many key reasons the Beavers controlled the game, including outgaining the Panthers 579-171 on offense, picking up 273 yards through the air and 306 on the ground. The 579 yards of offense were the most put up by a Bluffton team since it gained 609 against Hiram in 1999. Bluffton also finished with 20 more first downs than the Panthers (27-7) and had the ball for 39:20, compared to Hanover’s 20:40 time of possession. If the Beavers were looking for a negative in the victory, they did commit 12 penalties which resulted in 117 yards in reverse. Bluffton scored five of the six times that it entered the red zone, while converting 3-of-4 attempts on fourth down and 7-of-15 on third down.
The Beaver charge was led by Micah Roberson who topped all of Division III in receptions coming into the game. He added 11 more for 132 yards and two scores, putting him just three touchdowns away from the school record just four games into the campaign. His 44 catches is just 18 from the single-season mark. Bluffton starter Conner Sheehan also had a career game, going 13-for-22 for 198 yards and five scores, tying his brother Nick Sheehan for the most touchdown passes in a game at Bluffton. Bluffton also finished with two huge gainers on the ground as Dustin Fisher (St. Marys/Memorial) ran 12 times for 105 yards and Thomas-Wright ran 14 times for 96 yards and three touchdowns. It marked the most rushing touchdowns by an Beaver since Jovan Johnson went into the end zone five times in 2002.
In addition to his touchdown on the offensive side, Aelker also wreaked havoc defensively, adding two sacks for 11 yards and a whopping 4.5 TFLs while forcing a fumble and chipping in with a pass breakup for the Beavers. Aelker led the Beavers with eight tackles, followed by David Wellborn (Reynoldsburg/Marion-Franklin) with six and Linkoln LaRoche (Dola/Hardin Northern) with five tackles, 1.5 for loss and an interception. Aelker's two sacks gives him seven after just four games, six fewer than he finished with in 2014 when he led the nation.
The Beavers return home on Saturday, Oct. 10, for Homecoming as they take on the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology at Alumni Field. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. Come support your Beavers!