Dragons endure Stormy weather in 63-35 victory

JaQuan Hardy rushed for 124 yards against the Storm.
JaQuan Hardy rushed for 124 yards against the Storm.

Tiffin University (7-1, 5-0 GMAC) endured the elements and a huge passing attack by the Lake Erie Storm to remain unbeaten in the GMAC with a 63-35 win.

The game, which featured 98 points, nearly 1000 yards of offense, and the fifth-highest single game point total in TU history, was played in a steady downpour, setting up a wild first quarter that saw 34 total points scored.

Tiffin got on the board with the first two scores, with special teams factoring in 14 of the first 21 TU points. A blocked Lake Erie punt was returned 44 yards by Devon Lynch just four minutes into the game to put TU up 7-0.

Tiffin then took its first offensive possession and marched 51 yards before Stanley Jackson Jr. hauled in a 14 yard Nick Watson pass to make it 14-0 at the 6:26 mark.

Lake Erie showed resilience in answering TU's score, marching 87 yards with a big passing attack before scoring on a 37 yard toss that made it 14-6 after TU blocked the extra point.

Devin Butler gave TU another big special teams play on the ensuing kickoff, bringing it back 94 yards for a big touchdown that was the third longest kick return for a TD in school history. Butler returned one 95 yards against Kentucky Wesleyan two weeks ago. Tiffin now led 21-6 at the 3:10 mark.

Lake Erie returned to the air and hit pay dirt, scoring on a long 55 yard pass play that kept them close at 21-13 late in the first quarter.

Tiffin again responded immediately, driving 62 yards on 8 plays before JaQuan Hardy scored from 1 yard out to make it 28-13 at the 14:56 mark of the second quarter.

The Dragons kept up the pressure after a defensive three-and-out, with Hardy capping another drive with his second 1 yard TD run with 10:05 to play in the half as the Dragons looked to run away with it 35-13.

The Storm refused to go away, however, as more big plays cost the Dragons. A long 43 yard Lake Erie pass play led to an 8 yard TD run that brought the score to 35-20 8:08 before the half.

Tiffin hit their own big play on their next possession, as Butler hauled in a 33 yard pass from Watson for a score at 6:01 that finished off an 80 yard drive and made it 42-20. A field goal with 6 seconds left gave Lake Erie its final points of the half as they trailed 42-23 at the break.

The wild nature of the game resulted in some unusual halftime stats. Lake Erie dominated the time of possession 21:00 to 9:00, as Tiffin's quick strike offense and special teams points gave the Storm longer possession times. Lake Erie held the total offense edge due to its passing attack 342-237, while TU allowed just 9 yards rushing at the half.

The second half saw just five total scores, with the Dragons maintaining their healthy lead. After the Storm scored on a 2 yard run to pull within 42-29, Tiffin ate up most of the third quarter clock with two lengthy drives that eventually led to a 12 yard TD catch by Marcus Whitfield from Watson with just 15 seconds left in the third quarter as TU pushed its lead to 49-29.

Lake Erie tried to keep up but a drive that reached the TU 17 yard line ended on 4th down when Charlie Cleveland registered his second sack of the day to turn the ball over on downs. Tiffin then drove 68 yards for another score when Jackson caught a 31 yard pass from Watson to make it 56-29. 

Tiffin got its final points when Hardy scored his third TD of the day on a tough 36 yard run at the 3:08 mark of the fourth quarter. The run put Hardy at 124 yards for the day on 18 carries.

Overall the Storm outgained TU 493 to 443, with 469 of those yards coming through the air. TU held a big 243-24 edge in rushing as they featured a balanced offensive attack.

Watson finished with 12 of 19 passing for 200 yards and 4 touchdowns. Besides Hardy's 124 yards, Kyle Brunson had 60 yards on the ground. Jackson had 106 yards receiving on 5 catches, while Butler had 74 yards receiving on 5 passes along with 137 yards in kick returns for 211 all purpose yards.

Defensively Latrell Robinson had 9 tackles to lead the team, while Ross Moore had 8 stops with a blocked kick. Carrington Contee, Zach Goecke, and Jacob Mertus all had 6 tackles each, while Cleveland had 5 tackles with 2 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.