Bluffton 46, Defiance 27
Beavers hammer Defiance College in 2011 finale
November 12, 2011
DEFIANCE, Ohio - The Bluffton University football team completed its best season since 2004 when the Beavers roughed up long-time rival Defiance College 46-27 on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. Bluffton finished 5-5 overall and 5-3 in the Heartland Conference after winning five of its last six games. Defiance fell to 4-6 overall and 4-4 in the HCAC. The Beavers claimed a share of second place in the conference along with Hanover, Mount St. Joseph and Rose-Hulman. It marks only the second time in school history that Bluffton has won five games in the HCAC, the first being in 2000 when Bluffton earned a share of the conference title.
Bluffton stuffed the Jackets on the game's first possession and when the home team managed just a 20-yard punt, the Beavers took over at the Defiance 32-yard line. On the second play from scrimmage, Chris Byrd (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Univ. Prep) connected with fellow senior Shane Swisher (Findlay/McComb) for a 27-yard touchdown.
A second straight Defiance possession that went for negative yardage was capped by a 26-yard punt to the home 46-yard line. Again the Beavers needed just two plays to make the score 13-0 when Byrd called his own number and took it 43 yards to the house with 9:13 to play in the opening stanza.
The home team moved the chains once on their next touch before Bluffton forced a 21-yard punt from Aaron Spence. Steagall went for 44 yards on the first play following the punt before Byrd took it to the four-yard line two plays later. Senior nose tackle Justin Crosier (Columbus/Hamilton Township) put Bluffton on top 20-0 with the first rush of his collegiate career, a four-yard scoring plunge.
Three 15-yard personal foul penalties by Defiance early in the second period set the Beavers up at the Bluffton 45 with 11:51 to play in half. Byrd found Swisher for his second score of the game, capping a 10-play, 55-yard drive that pushed Bluffton's lead to 27-0 at the 7:22 mark.
With Crosier back on his normal side of the ball, he forced a Defiance fumble which fellow senior Jordan Burdue (Liberty Center) scooped up. The visitors picked up two first downs before Austin Sweeney (Adrian, Mich./Whitmer) drilled a 39-yard field goal for a 30-0 advantage at the half.
Junior safety Justin Hahn (Rocky River) picked off the Yellow Jackets on their first possession of the second half, but following a 67-yard Byrd completion to Swisher, Joemese Scott came up with an Airic Steagall (Hillsboro) fumble and ran it back 74 yards to get the home team on the scoreboard.
The Beavers responded with an eight-play, 77-yard scoring drive that featured seven straight runs by junior tailback Jason Brown (Napoleon). Tyler Wright (Troy) took advantage of a defense that was looking for Brown when he went in from the seven-yard line for a 37-7 lead.
Defiance sandwiched a pair of Drew Kuesel touchdowns around a 24-yard Sweeney chip shot, making the score 40-20 with 11:19 to play in the game. A Yellow Jacket hook-and-ladder ended up in Spenser Smith's (Wilmington) hands late in the fourth quarter, giving Bluffton the ball at the Defiance 36-yard line. Tony Sierra returned Sweeney's 47-yard field goal attempt to the Bluffton 27 before Rick Powell hit Archie Wallace for a 27-yard scoring strike with 2:07 to play.
Bluffton ended any Defiance hopes of a comeback when Airic Steagall went 38 yards to the house on the Beavers' second play from scrimmage, making the final score 46-27.
Jason Brown led the Beavers to their third-highest single-game rushing total in school history. He racked up 149 yards on just 19 carries as Bluffton finished the day with 381 yards on the ground. Steagall also went for 123 yards and a score on 23 touches. It was the first time two Bluffton backs went over the century mark since Ben Dodds and Ben McCullough accomplished the feat in 2005. Byrd picked up 77 yards while Tyler Wright added 30 yards. All four of Byrd's completions went to Shane Swisher who tallied two touchdowns and 110 yards receiving.
The visitors rolled up 381 yards rushing, compared to just 85 for the Yellow Jackets. Bluffton finished with 491 yards of total offense, 260 more than Defiance managed. The 491 total yards was the most by a Bluffton team since the Beavers put up 549 vs. Hiram in 2002. Bluffton was 6-of-14 on third downs, while Defiance converted on just 2-of-12 tries. The Beavers were successful on 4-of-5 trips into the red zone. The two teams combined for 205 penalty yards on 23 total infractions.
Senior linebacker Shane Hubbard (Johnstown/Big Walnut) paced the defense with eight tackles. Fellow seniors Oscar Vazquez-Dyer (Findlay/Carey), Jake Luthy (Ida, Mich.) and Geoff Yost (North Canton/Jackson) added six stops each, while sophomore safety Birchel Ralph (Cape Coral, Fla./Island Coast) chipped in with five tackles.
The Beavers wrapped up a successful campaign with their best finish in the HCAC since 2001 as they sent their 24 seniors off with a dominating victory over rival Defiance College.