Dragons' defense stifles Warriors 41-21

Tiffin University's JaQuan Hardy had a field day, rushing for 225 yards.
Tiffin University's JaQuan Hardy had a field day, rushing for 225 yards.

If the Dragons were looking to make a statement, they certainly did it.

Behind a swarming, physical defensive attack and a bruising ground game, Tiffin University (3-1, 2-0 GLIAC) beat Wayne State (2-2, 1-1) in impressive fashion 41-21. It was the most points Tiffin has ever scored against the Warriors since joining the GLIAC.

The game started slowly, with Wayne State drawing first blood on its third possession after recovering a TU fumble on a punt return. The Warriors finished off a short 27 yard drive with a 4 yard TD pass to jump ahead 7-0 with 6:05 to play in the first quarter.

Then the Dragons took over.

TU scored a huge 31 straight unanswered points over the next 33 minutes, vaulting past the Warriors and taking a 31-7 lead midway through the third quarter.

Tiffin answered Wayne State's score immediately, driving 65 yards on 8 plays, with JaQuan Hardy totaling 52 yards rushing and capping it off with a 1 yard TD run with 4:04 on the clock to tie the score at 7-7.

The Dragons' punishing defense wasted little time getting the ball back, as Carrington Contee drilled WSU's Stephen Charron after a reception, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Jacob Mertus at the Wayne State 30 yard line. Nick Watson capped off the short drive with a tight 21 yard TD pass to Charles Holland with just 35 seconds left on the first quarter clock to put TU up 14-7.

TU added to their lead on their next possession, as Joseph Metcalf hit a 31 yard field goal at the 9:33 mark of the second quarter. TU's defense kept stopping Wayne State drives, forcing 9 total punts by the Warriors. 

After stopping another Wayne State drive, TU scored again on their next possession, highlighted by another 33 yard run by Hardy. This time Watson raced in for the score from 10 yards out to make it 24-7 with 1:22 left in the half. 

TU's huge 17 point halftime lead expanded by another score at the 8:19 mark of the third quarter, as TU finished off a 63 yard drive highlighted by a 41 yard pass completion from Watson to Tyler Denton with a 4 yard Watsons run that pushed TU's lead to 31-7.

With the game seemingly in hand, the Warriors made a run. A fumble after a Denton reception gave Wayne State the ball back, and they quickly hit a 43 yard TD pass and the two-point conversion to make the score 31-15 with 5:44 left in the third.

On TU's next possession, Watson was intercepted on their first play, with Myron Riley returning it down the sideline 21 yards for another touchdown in just 6 more seconds, and suddenly the lead looked in jeopardy as the Warriors trailed just 31-21.

But once again the Dragons defense rose to the occasion, forcing three-and-outs on WSU's next two possessions as the offense regrouped. Early in the fourth quarter, TU put together a 4:18 drive that ended in a Hardy 2 yard touchdown run to give TU a 38-21 lead at the 9:14 mark of the final quarter.

With time running short for the Warriors, TU put the game away on their next possession, as Hardy exploded for a big 57 yard run and accounted for 64 of TU's 69 yards on the drive, leading to a 20 yard field goal by Metcalf to give TU a 41-21 lead with 2:13 to play.

Wayne State was never able to figure out TU's defense, which held the Warriors' strong rushing attack to just 93 total yards. The Dragons rushed for 297 yards and outgained WSU in total offense 473 to 192.

TU, which held a 19 to 7 edge in first downs, also held a huge 9 minute advantage in time of possession and held Wayne State to just 2 of 13 on third down conversions. TU held Wayne State to just 2.5 yards per rush while averaing 6.9 yards per carry. TU scored on 7 of 8 red zone opportunities and also posted 3 sacks, harassing WSU quarterback D.J. Zezula in the backfield all night.

Hardy finished with a whopping 225 yards rushing with 2 touchdowns, averaging 9.8 yards per carry, while Watson also rushed for 62 yards. Watson completed 18 of 28 passes for 176 yards while Holland had 62 yards on 4 receptions. 

Harry McCollum did a superb job punting for TU, averaging 46.5 yards per kick as he consistently pinned Wayne State back, including three of his four kicks landing inside the 20.

Defensively the standouts were numerous. Contee had 11 tackles with a forced fumble, while Brandon Burks had 9 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss. Jamar Randolph had 6 tackles with a sack and 2 tackles for loss, while Austin Jasper also had 6 stops with a sack.

Charlie Cleveland had 5 tackles, while Mertus had 4 tackles and a fumble recovery. Victor Cave also had a big sack.