Late Dragons' score leads to 29-24 win at Alderson Broaddus

Daijohn Isbell had 3 interceptions in the 29-24 win at Alderson Broaddus.
Daijohn Isbell had 3 interceptions in the 29-24 win at Alderson Broaddus.

Tiffin University (3-0, 1-0 G-MAC) overcame turnovers and a fourth quarter deficit to score late and pull away with a 29-24 victory at Alderson Broaddus in their conference opener.

The game was a wild affair that saw 800 combined yards of offense, 8 turnovers, and 4 lead changes before TU claimed the victory. The Battlers opened scoring at 5:44 of the first quarter on a 25 yard TD pass, as Tiffin could not find the end zone in the first quarter and trailed 7-0 heading to the second quarter.

Daijohn Isbell made his mark defensively at the end of the opening quarter, when he posted the first of 3 interceptions on the day and returned it 17 yards to the AB 39 yard line as TU took control at the start of the second quarter.

Nick Watson wasted no time, hitting Charles Holland on a 39 yard touchdown strike on their first play to make it 7-7 at 14:46 of the second quarter.

Tiffin got good field position again at the start of their next drive, and proceeded to drive the field 55 yards in 10 plays before Tylan Rice banged it in from the one yard line. Holland had another big 30 yard reception to keep the drive moving. A.J. Nickoli then ran in the two point conversion to give TU a 15-7 lead at the 8:53 mark.

The Battlers, though, lived up to their name, bouncing back and driving 82 yards on their next possession. A 32 yard TD run capped it off and made the score 15-14, Tiffin.

A-B tried to put more points on the board late in the half, but a drive starting at 2:26 ended quickly when Jacob Mertus picked off another pass and gave TU a chance to get more points late in the half. 

Again the Dragons used the quick strike to get the points, with Watson hitting Victor Talley on a 31 yard TD and then converted the two point conversion pass to put TU up 23-14 at halftime.

Tiffin had another chance to get points as the half wound down, driving down to the AB 11 before throwing a pass in the end zone. It signalled the start of a rough patch for the Dragons over the next 15 minutes, as the Battlers crept back into the ball game.

After Isbell intercepted another pass early in the third quarter, the Dragons looked like they would again add to their lead. The Dragons drove down to the AB 5 yard line but again threw an interception in the end zone to kill the drive.

As the defense continued to hold solid, the Dragons took over near midfield on their next drive. But two plays in a fumble gave the ball back to the Battlers, who used the opportunity to get 3 points closer on a 32 yard field goal at the 2:02 mark of the third quarter and trailed 23-17.

The Battlers drove early in the fourth quarter down to the TU 34 yard line but Isbell again stepped up, making his 3rd pick of the game to kill the AB drive. 

The seesaw momentum continued, though, as one play later Watson was picked off on a long throw at the AB 8 yard line. This time the Battlers did not waste the opportunity, hitting a 54 yard pass play to retake the lead 24-23 with 10:57 to play.

The Dragons found their composure at just the right moment. Starting their next drive on their own 6 yard line, TU began their drive of the game, marching 94 yards with a balanced passing and rushing attack that ate up 5:00 and culminated in a 4 yard TD run by Kyle Brunson with 5:20 left to regain the lead 29-24.

After holding AB to a 3-and-out, the Dragons regained the ball and then ran out the clock, converting two third down plays and eating up the final 4:22 for the win.

Overall TU outgained AB 471-329 and had a 19-17 edge in first downs. They overcame a 7 for 16 performance on third down along 4 turnovers and a 2 for 7 effort in the red zone.

Watson passed for 338 yards on 21 of 34 passing with 3 interceptions and 2 touchdowns. Holland was the prime beneficiary with 115 yards on 5 catches and a TD. Talley had 85 yards on 6 catches with a TD, while Tyler Denton also had 55 yards and Derell Williams had 52 yards receiving.

Brunson rushed for 95 tough yards on 21 carries along with the game-winning TD.

Defensively Isbell shined with 8 tackles and 3 interceptions, while Alexander Melfe had 7 tackles and a sack along with a forced fumble. Jacob Mertus had 7 tackles with an interception, while A.J. Wright had 6 tackles.