Defiance 28, Bluffton 20
November 12, 2016
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University football team celebrated Senior Day on a beautiful Saturday, Nov. 12, prior to kickoff at Alumni Field. With the chance to nail down a seventh straight 'Hammer', the Beavers fell just short as rival Defiance College rode its opportunistic defense to the Yellow Jackets first win over Bluffton since 2009. Defiance improved to 5-5 overall and 4-4 in the Heartland Conference, while Bluffton capped off its best season since 2000 with a 7-3 record and 5-3 mark in the HCAC.
A fumble on Bluffton's second play from scrimmage foreshadowed what was to come as the failed reverse gave DC great field position at the Yellow Jacket 45-yard line. The Beaver defense forced a three-and-out, but when Defiance picked off Conner Sheehan (Monroeville, Ind./Heritage) three plays later, the Jackets needed just four plays to go 21 yards for the 7-0 lead with 8:14 to play in the first quarter.
Defiance took advantage of a short field again early in the second quarter when Logan Scott hit DeVonte Cravin from five yards out after Scott's connection with Cody Wilson went for 22 yards before a personal foul tacked 13 more yards on to the Bluffton 12-yard line. The Beavers answered with an 11-play, 68-yard drive that saw Micah Roberson (Ada) haul in a 22-yard reception before Raphael Dell (Cincinnati/Hughes) made it 14-7 with an 11-yard TD catch.
Defiance made it 21-7 when Cody Wilson went in from one yard out following a Keandre Gilmer interception that came up just a yard shy of a pick six. A fake punt came up one yard shy on Bluffton's next possession as Defiance once again took over on the Beaver side of the field. Wilson took it in from four yards out on the first play of the final period for the 28-7 spread.
Roberson hauled in three passes on Bluffton's ensuing possession before Sheehan found Lucas Espitia (Lincoln Park, Mich./Lincoln Park) wide open in the end zone, making the score 28-13 with 11:59 to play when the PAT attempt went wide left. A quick three-and-out by Defiance set the Beavers up at the home 33-yard line. Sheehan followed a 22-yard toss to Roberson with a 2-yard TD pass that made the score 28-20 with 8:49 on the clock. Two more Defiance interceptions and a failed fourth down conversion over the final 5:06 sealed the DC victory.
Bluffton outgained the visitors 376-285, but six turnovers proved too much to overcome. The Beavers moved the chains 25 times, compared to just 14 for Defiance, The home team was 7-of-17 on third down opportunities and the Bluffton defense limited DC to just 4-of-16 on third down.
Freshman Stanley Williams (Sterling Heights, Mich./Chippewa Valley) paced the defense with 10 tackles, including nine solos. Senior Jake Harmon (Van Wert/Crestview) was in on eight stops. Senior Link LaRoche (Dola/Hardin Northern) and sophomore Austin Hall (Piqua) added seven tackles, including 2.5 TFL's and a 10-yard sack for Laroche. Isaac Zickafoose (Middlebury, Ind./Northridge) and Brad Topp (Carlisle) combined for four TFL's in the season finale.
Micah Roberson hauled in 16 catches for 121 yards, giving him 1,030 receiving yards this season (3rd all-time) and moving up to #2 on the career list with 2,667 yards, just 10 shy of all-time leader Eric Metz! His 98 receptions this year are second to his Bluffton-record 100 in 2015. Dell caught his school-record 15th TD pass and he now tied for 3rd on the career list with 18 scores. Sheehan competed 33-of-52 passes for 301 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Bluffton wrapped up its record-setting 2016 campaign with the most wins since the 2000 squad also finished 7-3. The Heartland Conference post-season awards will be handed out on Wednesday, Nov. 16.