It wasn't the prettiest of games, but Tiffin University (5-2, 4-1 GLIAC) did what it had to do and worked hard in a bruising 35-24 win over visiting Northern Michigan at Frost Kalnow Stadium.
In a game that witnessed numerous lengthy delays on both sides due to injuries along with 110 yards in penalties, it was the Dragons that came out on top, as they held off the Wildcats throughout the game before putting the game away with just over 5 minutes remaining in the game.
The Wildcats got on the board quickly, driving 75 yards in just 2:34 before hitting a 19 yard touchdown pass to go ahead 7-0 at the 12:26 mark of the first quarter. The GLIAC's leading rusher, Jake Mayon, had a 35 yard burst that helped set up the score.
The Dragons responded immediately, driving 78 yards on their next possession. Nick Watson rushed for 30 yards to keep the drive moving, and finished it with a 11 yard fade route throw to Tony Shead in the corner of the end zone to make it 7-7 at the 6:19 mark.
The teams traded possessions over the next 15 minutes until TU broke through with a bug 51 yard run by Hunter Rockwell that put them ahead 13-7 at the half after a missed PAT.
TU looked to take over the game at the start of the second half, taking their first possession and putting together a 75 yard drive that saw Watson complete 6 of 7 passes for 74 yards. He hit Shead for a 4 yard TD strike and then connected with Trent Stamm on the 2 point conversion to push TU's lead to 21-7 at the 11:01 mark of the third quarter.
NMU, though, quickly turned the momentum around, using Mayon's strong rushing to move downfield. Mayon, en route to 219 yards on the ground, scored on each of their next two possessions on runs covering 6 and 23 yards. With 4:52 left in the third quarter, the game was suddenly tied 21-21.
With 1:52 remaining in the quarter, TU took over and started a 68 yard drive that culminated in a 16 yard TD scamper by Watson that gave TU the lead again 28-21. Watson accounted for 46 of those yards either by rushing or passing.
NMU refused to quit. Despite starting their next possession on their own 1 yard line, they again turned to Mayon, who had another explosive run covering 64 yards. The Wildcats drove down to TU's 4 yard line before the defense halted the drive. The Wildcats settled for a 22 yard field goal to make it 28-24 Tiffin with 11:38 to play.
After the Dragons held NMU to a 3 and out on their next possession, the Dragons got good field position after the punt at the 50 yard line. JaQuan Hardy took care of business, finishing the drive with a 16 yard run with 5:53 to play that put TU on top 35-24.
The Wildcats had two more shots to get back in the game but were held to a 3 and out on their first try and gave up a sack to Jamar Randolph and Brandon Burks along with an interception by Jawan Nelson at midfield to kill their last drive.
Overall TU had 21 first downs to NMU's 18. NMU used its ground game to outgain TU 431-394. As strong as Mayon was for NMU, Watson was just as big for the Dragons, as he completed 22 of 31 passes with no interceptions and 2 TDs for 196 yards while rushing for a team high 78 yards and another score. Overall he accounted for 274 yards of offense.
Harry McCollum had another good day punting for TU, averaging 41.9 yards per kick with 2 inside the 20.
Burks had another big game defensively, totaling 12 tackles with a half sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Delan Wynn had 8 tackles, while Isbell also had 6 stops. Victor Cave had a sack, 4 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss while Randolph had a half sack. Nelson and Carrington Contee had interceptions in the secondary.