Bluffton 30, Manchester 27 (OT)
Sweeney field goal gives Bluffton 30-27 overtime win at Manchester
October 8, 2011
By: Josh Bruner, sports information assistant
NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. - The Bluffton University football team traveled to Manchester College to face the Spartans in an HCAC matchup on Saturday, Oct. 8. The Beavers hit a 37-yard field goal attempt in overtime to take their second win a row, 30-27, and their first in OT. The win bumps the Beavers up to 2-4 overall with a 2-2 record in the Heartland Conference. The loss dropped the Spartans below the .500 mark as they fell to 2-3 overall with a 1-2 mark in the HCAC.
The Beavers started the game slowly as they went three-and-out the first two drives. The Manchester offense managed to split the uprights on their first touch, taking an early 3-0 lead. The Beavers put together a nice drive on their third possession as a Tyler Wright (Troy) 49-yard touchdown run gave the Beavers a 7-3 lead with just under four minutes left in the first. The Bluffton defense forced a three-and-out from the Spartans following the touchdown. The Beavers started to drive down the field as the first quarter expired with Bluffton holding a 7-3 lead.
Bluffton continued to move the chains as Wright connected with Ryan Sabin (Canal Winchester) for a 38-yard touchdown pass with 10:24 left in the half. The Beavers failed on the PAT, making the score 13-3. The Spartans responded by marching down the field for a touchdown at the six-minute mark in the half.
Wright found the endzone once again, this time connecting with Shane Swisher (Findlay/McComb) to make it a 10-point lead with just two minutes left in the period. The Spartans wasted no time responding as a 65-yard touchdown run by Corey Nelson took just 15 seconds off the clock. A Spartan interception on the Manchester 44-yard line with only one minute left in the half set up a Kyle Evans 27-yard field goal which made the score 20-20 at the break.
Manchester took its second lead of the afternoon, 27-20, when Justin Minnich hit Skodinski for a nine-yard touchdown completion with 3:02 to play in the third. Bluffton was not fazed as a 44-yard Jason Johnson (Lansing, Mich./Lansing Eastern) reception from Chris Byrd (Detroit, Mich./Detroit University Prep) put the Beavers on the Manchester eight-yard line as the third quarter expired. Byrd connected twice with Shawn Frost (Edison/Mt. Gilead) to start the 4th, capping the drive with a two-yard touchdown which knotted the game with 14 minutes remaining. The teams each had their chances in the fourth quarter, but were forced to punt as the score remained 27-27 at the end of regulation.
Manchester started with the ball in the overtime. They made it to the Bluffton 19-yard line, but missed a 36-yard field goal attempt. The Beavers took their shot, and after a five-yard penalty and nine yards on the ground, Austin Sweeney (Adrian, Mich./Whitmer) split the uprights on a 37-yard attempt to give the Beavers their second straight win, 30-27.
The offenses proved even in the game as the Spartans had the slight advantage (367-354) in total yards. Manchester had the advantage on the ground, rushing for 252 yards, while the Beavers picked up 160. Bluffton led the air raid, connecting for 194 yards, while the Spartans had just 115 in the air. Both teams threw one interception in the game. The difference proved to be third down conversions as the Beavers moved the chains 9-of-17 attempts, while they held the Spartans to 6-of-17. Bluffton was whistled for nine penalties totaling 80 yards, while the Spartans were only whistled for four, resulting in 28 yards.
The Beaver offense was led by Wright who ran the ball for 101 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries. He also threw the ball for 101 yards and two touchdowns, going 7-of-10 with one interception. Following Wright in the running game was Airic Steagall (Hillsboro) with 42 yards on 18 carries. Jason Brown (Napoleon) also added 26 yards on the ground. Pacing the Bluffton receivers was Sabin with two catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Hauling in three catches apiece were Swisher, Shawn Frost and Todd Trotter (Cincinnati/Aiken University).
The Bluffton defense was led by Shane Hubbard (Johnstown/Big Walnut) who stopped the Spartans 13 times with one sack. Justin Hahn (Rocky River), Preston Huddleston (Benton Harbor, Mich./Eau Claire), and Joe Maldonado (Dade City, Fla./Zephyrhills) each contributed with six tackles in the game. Justin Crosier (Columbus/Hamilton Township) finished with three TFL's and Jacob Luthy (Ida, Mich/Ida) came up with an interception.
The Beavers return to Salzman Stadium next Saturday, October 15. They host the Ravens of Anderson University. The contest is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m.