2-3, 1-1 HCAC
1-4, 0-1 HCAC
Bluffton, Ohio: 1:30 p.m.
Last season's HCAC co-champs collide Saturday in SalzmanOctober 10, 2001
Setting the scene
Last season's Heartland Conference co-champions collide Saturday in Salzman Stadium as Bluffton College takes on Hanover College on Homecoming. Bluffton is looking for their first win over Hanover since 1990, while Hanover is looking to end a four-game losing streak, their first since 1971, and get back in the HCAC title hunt.
Bluffton is 39-34-1 all-time on Homecoming and has won 13 of the 16 games played on this special day, dating back to 1985.
Bluffton's last home game was 25 days ago, when a 49-yard field goal by Adam Burgess gave Bluffton a 23-20 win over Thiel on Sept. 15. It was Bluffton's first-ever win on the last play of the game in the 85 years of Beaver football.
Hanover leads the all-time series against Bluffton 17 wins to four since these two schools began competing in 1972 as members of the Hoosier-Buckeye Conference. The Panthers have won the last six games against BC dating back to 1991, including the last three in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. Hanover shared the HCAC title with Bluffton last season and won the title outright in 1999 with a 10-0 record.
A combined 233 wins will be pacing the sidelines Saturday as two of NCAA Division III's finest coaches lead their respective teams. BC Head Coach Carlin Carpenter is 97-116-1 in his 24th season at Bluffton College, while Wayne Perry is 136-60-2 in his 20th season at Hanover. Carpenter earned HCAC co-coach of the year honors last season, while Perry earned that award in 1999. Carpenter's 24 seasons once again qualifies him with the longest tenure among Ohio's collegiate head football coaches.
Bluffton racked up a season-high 27 first downs and 273 yards rushing last season at Hanover, but the Panthers held on for a 24-15 win. BC outgained Hanover 375-318 and intercepted three passes, but the Panthers kept the Beavers out of the endzone at crucial moments to preserve the win.
Both teams ended the season with a 5-1 HCAC record last season to tie for the league crown, with Hanover representing the HCAC in the national playoffs. The Panthers defeated Hope College (Mich.) in the first round before falling to Wittenberg University (Ohio) in the quarterfinals.
Bluffton dominated Mount St. Joseph 45-7 in Cincinnati for their first HCAC win of the season. The Beavers compiled 442 yards in total offense and outscored the hosts 37-0 in the second and third quarters. The BC defense picked off three passes and held the Lions to under 200 yards in total offense. BC sophomore Jovan Johnson rushed for 152 yards and junior Brad Moore passed for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Jon Richardson returned an interception 26 yards for a TD in the second quarter and junior Adam Burgess converted all six PAT kicks and added a 26-yard field goal.
Hanover, meanwhile, suffered its fourth straight loss of the season last week at league-leader Defiance College 33-13. The Panthers surrendered 312 yards rushing and committed five turnovers, including four on interceptions, as Defiance improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the HCAC.
Last time vs. HC in Salzman
Bluffton suffered a heart-breaking loss to the Panthers in 1999 in their last meeting in Salzman Stadium. BC led 38-34 and held the ball with under a minute left in the game, but Hanover forced a turnover with 40 seconds left to play and scored the winning touchdown with just 10 seconds left on the clock.
Both these offenses like to control the football. Hanover does it through the air, ranking third in the HCAC with 250.2 yards passing per game, while Bluffton does it on the ground with 187.4 yards per game, ranking second in the league.
On paper, those two facts give the advantage to the Beavers, who rank first in the HCAC against the pass, allowing just 125 yards per game through the air, and who will be going up against a Panther defense which ranks last against the run, giving up over 229 yards per contest on the ground. However, those statistics were similar going into last season's game, which came down to Hanover's tough red-zone defense, which limited BC to just two touchdowns.
Despite the fact that Hanover ranks sixth in total offense and last in total defense and turnovers, the Panthers have committed the fewest penalties in the league and have the HCAC's best punter (Barry Swisher, 36.3 ypp) and kickoff return man (Adam Stevenson, 29.7 ypr)
BC running back Jovan Johnson has averaged 172 yards rushing in the last three games since making the switch from wide receiver. Middle linebacker Chris Sommers ranks second in the HCAC with 10.4 tackles per game.