Dragons pick up 31-28 Homecoming victory

Tony Shead scored on a 76 yard TD reception in TU's Homecoming victory.
Tony Shead scored on a 76 yard TD reception in TU's Homecoming victory.

Tiffin University (4-1, 3-0 GLIAC) used some big plays on offense and key defensive stops to hold off Northwood 31-28 in their annual Homecoming game.

Tiffin's first big play came on their second possession, when JaQuan Hardy took the handoff on their first play from scrimmage and broke through the hole on a 45 yard touchdown run to make it 7-0 TU just 3 minutes into the game.

Northwood answered at the 4:53 mark, capping an 8 play, 48 yard drive with a one yard TD run to tie the score 7-7.

TU's defense then took over for the rest of the half, not allowing another point to the Timberwolves. Midway through the second quarter, Carrington Contee made a sensational diving interception to give TU great field possession at the Northwood 17 yard line. Joe Metcalf then booted a 35 yard field goal to make it 10-7.

After a three-and-out by TU's defense, TU hit their next big offensive play, a 71 yard TD pass from Nick Watson to Tyler Denton with 3:56 left in the half. The score gave TU momentum heading to halftime with a 17-7 lead.

The third quarter saw both teams explode offensively, combining for 28 points. Northwood scored in less than 2 minutes on their opening possession of the second half, as Justin Cook ran it in from 16 yards out. 

The big plays continued for TU two possessions later, as Watson hit Tony Shead for a long 76 yard touchdown connection that pushed TU's lead to 24-14. TU then threated to blow the game open when they forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff which was recovered by kicker Joseph Metcalf at the Northwood 35 yard line. Watson then hurled his third TD pass of the day, hitting Hunter Rockwell on a 35 yard pass on the first play from scrimmage to streak ahead 31-14 with 8:25 to go in the third quarter.

Northwood, though, refused to die, using their triple option offense to immediately mount a 75 yard drive in just 5 plays, capping it with a 32 yard TD pass from TJ Schepperly to Alex Spicuzzi to bring the score back to 31-21.

The Dragons looked like they were driving again late in the third quarter, but a Watson interception on the Northwood 12 yard line ended the drive and gave NU another chance. TU's defense held, however, stopping a fake punt at the end of the quarter.

The defense continued to make big stands throughout the final quarter, forcing a punt on their first possession, getting a big sack from Brandon Burks and allowing -10 yards to NU on their next possession, and making a statement with a fourth down stand to hold NU a half yard short to force turnover on downs on their third possession.

With 2:38 left, Northwood had to score to stay in the game and they responded, covering 86 yards in 4 plays with 3 big pass plays leading to a 7 yard TD toss with 1:49 left and forcing an onside kick trailing 31-28. Carrington Contee, though, recovered the kick to secure the ball and the win for TU.

Overall TU held a 378-348 edge in total offense but trailed Northwood 20-11 in first downs. TU's big plays were seen in their 9 completions on 16 pass attempts (27.2 yards per completion). TU's defense also registered 3 sacks and 10 tackles for loss and overcame a 2 for 12 effort on third down conversions by holding NU to just 4 of 15 on third downs.

Hardy rushed for 95 yards on just 16 carries, good for 5.9 yards per rush. Watson had 39 yards rushing along with 245 yards passing with 3 TDs. Shead accounted for 94 receiving yards while Denton had 71 yards on his score. Da'Von Johnson also had 40 yards receiving.

Both punters were busy with 17 combined punts on the day, with TU's Harry McCollum taking 9 kicks and placing 4 of them inside the 20 with 2 touchbacks while averaging 38.2 yards per kick.

Defensively the list of standouts was long. Contee had 14 tackles with 11 solo stops and an interception while also sealing the game with his onside kick recovery. Brandon Burks was also on fire, making 10 tackles with a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss. Daijohn Isbell had 8 stops with 2 breakups and a half tackle for loss.

Jawan Nelson had 5 tackles with a tackle for loss while Jacob Mertus also had 5 stops. Tyan Young had 4 tackles (2 for loss), while Jamar Randolph, Victory Cave, and Michael Sabol were in on sacks.