By: Joseph Watkins, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University football team hosted Franklin College for its first of two matchups with the Grizzlies this season on a warm Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. The Grizzly defense came up with a huge turnover late in the fourth quarter that would help seal the 34-19 victory over the Beavers.
After 13-plus minutes of scoreless football in the first stanza, Franklin would get on the board first when Austin Grunden rumbled in for a 9-yard touchdown to put the Grizzlies up 7-0 with 1:16 remaining in the first quarter. The Grizzlies found the end zone again with 7:36 left in the second stanza when Payton Healy went in from one yard out to put Franklin up 14-0. The Beavers answered back when Darian Greeley (Belleville, MI/Chippewa Valley) scampered inf for a 4-yard touchdown, making the score 14-7 in favor of the Grizzlies at the half.
Bluffton came out firing in the third which resulted in a 22-yard touchdown strike from Zachary Nobis (Bryan) to Adam Duncan (Northwood/Lake), making the score 14-13 after a missed extra point attempt from the Beavers. Franklin would respond with a 26-yard field goal for a 17-13 lead with 8:13 left in the third stanza. With 6:43 to go in the third, Franklin took advantage of a pickoff when Robbie Strader connected on a 58-yard touchdown pass to Bennet Beyl that put the Grizzlies up 24-13.
The Beavers would not give up though. Greeley struck gold again when he would take one into the end zone from three yards out to cut the Grizzly lead to 24-19. Unfortunately, a crucial Bluffton turnover late in the final stanza would all but seal the victory for Franklin. They tacked on a late touchdown to make the final verdict 34-19. The scoreboard does not tell the whole story though as the Beavers fought till the end and never gave up, but ultimately came up just short against a battle-tested Franklin squad.
Bluffton totaled 360 yards of offense with 123 yards passing and 237 yards on the ground. Nobis went 13-of-23 for 123 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions on the day. Greeley and Dontez Rash (Brecksville/Slippery Rock) churned out 89 and 84 yards, respectively. Duncan led the receivers with 42 yards and a touchdown on the afternoon.
Franklin put up 439 yards of total offense, including 322 on the ground, despite controlling the ball for less than 25 minutes, 10 fewer than the Beavers finished with. Bluffton struggled with just 6-of-15 conversions on third down, but helped the cause with three crucial fourth down conversions. Franklin was a perfect 5-of-5 on its red zone opportunities with three touchdowns.
Antonio Crossty (Wooster) again paced the defense for Bluffton with nine tackles, giving him a team-best 37 through three games. Keith Holmes Jr. (Toledo/St. Francis DeSales) would come in behind with eight tackles, a sack and a breakup. Junior cornerback Stephan Kosakowski (Cleveland/Benedictine) added six solo stops and a breakup for the Beavers.
Bluffton is back in action next Saturday, Sept. 28, when the Beavers travel to Hanover College for a Heartland Conference clash with the Panthers, the HCAC opener for both teams. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.