BC falls to Hanover comeback

By Tim Stried, SID

October 4, 1999




How quickly the tide can turn.

With 40 seconds to go Saturday Bluffton College held the football and a 38-34 lead over Hanover College. With 10 seconds to go they held neither. And so it happened, BC dropped a heartbreaker to the Panthers, undefeated and ranked #21 in the country coming into Salzman Stadium, and leaving knowing they had just played a team every bit as good, if not better, than themselves.

It was a game that saw six lead changes in the second half alone and 930 yards in total offense between the two high-powered HCAC teams. It was a game that, like most Bluffton-Hanover contests, came down to who had the ball last. And when Jarret Smotrila intercepted a Hanover pass with 00:59 left in the game, the Beavers looked at their four point lead on the scoreboard and felt certain that their undefeated season would continue.

However, on BC's ensuing possession, an exceptional defensive play by a Hanover defender caused a fumble with 00:37 left, giving the ball to the Panthers just 30 yards away from the endzone. Six plays later HC quarterback Eric Bruns lofted an 11 yard touchdown pass to Dan Taylor with just 10 ticks left on the clock. Bluffton got the ball back for one last play at their own 31 yard line, but with the Hanover defenders perched a long way down field, BC's pass was intercepted and the Indiana natives celebrated their most improbable victory.

The Joel Parrett to Eric Metz connection was hitting on all cylinders Saturday to the tune of two Bluffton College records. Metz ended the day with 237 yards receiving, a new Beaver milestone, surpassing the previous mark of 234 yards set by Andy Nowlin against Urbana in 1990. The senior co-captain from Norwalk caught nine passes on the day, including a Salzman Stadium record 77 yard touchdown from Parrett in the second quarter. Parrett's performance was equally exceptional, as the senior connected on 22 of 28 passes through a gusty wind and a talented Hanover secondary for 411 yards and three touchdowns.

Bluffton outgained Hanover in offensive yardage 505 to 425 and held the ball for 33:14 compared to 26:46 for the visitors. Panther quarterback Eric Bruns made the big plays when he needed to, though, as the sophomore threw for all six Hanover touchdowns, connecting on 31 of 45 passes for 294 yards. BC running back Tyson Goings was held in check, gaining just 69 yards on 21 carries. Points after touchdowns were once again hard to come by for the Beavers, as BC connected on just one 2 point conversion run despite scoring six touchdowns.

The first of those touchdowns came from Goings on a seven yard run with 8:01 left in the first quarter. Hanover answered as Evan Rubin caught a 24 yard strike from Bruns at the 3:19 mark. Both squads scored back to back TDs in the second quarter, the first two by Bluffton on a one yard sneak by Parrett at the 13:14 mark and the other on the previously mentioned 77 yard record setting hookup from Parrett to Metz. Hanover's two scores came from the arm of Bruns to Nick Burbridge with 4:21 left in the half, and then to John Agan, his first of four touchdowns catches on the day, with just 47 seconds left in the half as the Panthers took a 19-18 lead into the locker room.

The Beavers regained the lead in the third quarter at the 10:43 mark as Luke Habegger made a diving TD grab from 13 yards out. It would be the last catch of the season for the junior wide receiver, however, as Luke suffered a broken collar bone later in the third quarter. Hanover struck again on a four yard hookup from Bruns to Agan, but HC's attempt to tie the score at 26 was thwarted as Smotrila blocked the extra point attempt.

The two teams combined for 28 points in the dramatic fourth quarter, which was started off by a 26 yard field goal from Hanover kicker B.J. Black for a 28-26 lead. Bluffton answered as Parrett found Evan Ward open for a 17 yard touchdown toss at the 8:07 mark and the Beavers were back in the lead at 32-28. Hanover regained the lead with 4:56 remaining as Bruns hit Again on a five yard pass, but BC answered quickly as Paul Risner bulled over from three yards out to put BC back on top 38-34 before what would be the final two drives of the game, including the game-winner for Hanover.

Greg Ditz notched a team high seven solo tackles and eight assists on the day, while Smotrila had four solo tackles, six assists, and had one tackle behind the line of scrimmage to go with his interception and blocked extra point attempt. Greg Bruns had 9 total tackles for BC including two for loss, while Cliff Willoughby recorded four tackles and a fourth quarter interception.

It doesn't get any easier for BC, however, as they square off against defending HCAC champion Wabash College next Saturday in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Last season in Bluffton the Beavers took Wabash into overtime for a homecoming game thriller before bowing to the Little Giants 34-28. Wabash enters the game with a 2-0 record in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and a 2-2 mark overall, while Bluffton will enter with an 0-1 HCAC mark and a 3-1 overall ledger.