ANGOLA, Ind. - It was a game of two different half's for the Trine University football team in their 42-20 win over Wisconsin-River Falls. The Thunder are now 3-0 to start the season for the second straight season and stretch their regular season winning streak to 20 games.
The Falcons took their opening drive down inside the Thunder red zone but the defense was able to come up with a stop limiting the visiting team to a 36 yard field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, junior Ja Vontae Hence (Elkhart, Ind./Concord) took the ball 89 yards for the touchdown. On River Falls next possession, they again marched down the field 73 yards. However, the defense came up again with a huge stop as the Falcons running back Taylor Edwards fumbled the ball and the Thunder recovered in the end zone for a touchback. Trine's good fortune would not last long, as on their second play of their possession, junior Ryan Hargraves (Taylor, Mich./Truman) threw just his second interception of the season.
The River Falls offense would again falter as the Trine defense stood tall and forced the Falcons to turn the ball over on downs after they tried a fake field goal on fourth down. The teams would trade fourth and outs on the next three possessions. The Falcons were finally able to get some offense going as they drove 49 yards down to the Thunder 29. After the Falcons completed a pass, sophomore Myron Puryear (Plymouth, Mich./Canton) stripped the ball away from the River Falls receiver and returned it 71 yards for the touchdown.
The Trine defense again forced the Falcons to turn the ball over on downs on four straights plays. However, the Thunder offense was again foiled and was forced up punt. The kick by sophomore Nicholas Muir (Edwardsburg, Mich./Edwardsburg) was downed inside the Falcons own one yard line. The Falcons were unable to do anything with the ball and were forced to punt again. Trine was finally able to get their offense going just before the close of the half. Hargraves found Hence twice on plays for 24 and 12 yards respectively. Hargraves eventually found fellow junior Sean Collins (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) from three yards out for the score with just six seconds remaining, as Trine led 21-3 at the half.
After both teams kicked the ball away after four straight plays to open the second half, Hargraves threw his second pick of the game on the first play of their second possession. After the Falcons were forced to punt again, senior Kent Biller (Nappanee, Ind./Northwood) took off. On Trine's ensuing possession, on the first play Biller scored on a 94 yard run after dashing through the Falcons defense. The celebration wouldn't last long as River Falls again drove down the field and into Thunder territory. Trine's defense stood tall once again as they held the Falcons on three straight plays inside the 10 yard line, as they had to settle for another field goal.
Not wanting to let Rive Falls back into the game, the Thunder drove to the Falcons 43 yard line where junior Michael Inge (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills North) took off from there scoring on the 43 yard touchdown run. On their next possession, the Falcons would once again drive into Trine territory, but this time it was junior Raymond Nelson (Cassopolis, Mich./Ross Beatty) who came up with the interception at the 25 yard line. Trine would then go four-and-out but the Muir punt was blocked, picked up and returned for a touchdown for the Falcons.
After neither team was able to score on their next possessions, it was again Biller who broke free. This time Biller scored from 30 yards out. The Falcons put the final score on the board when Edwards broke free for a 14 yard score midway through the fourth quarter. River Falls had two more opportunities to score but turned the ball over on downs and then fumbled the snap on a fourth down to turn the ball over.
Through Trine's first four possessions, they accumulated just 13 total yards. Beginning with their final possession of the first half, the Thunder accounted for 408 yards through their final 11 possessions.
Hargraves finished the afternoon going 11-for-20 for 158 yards and a touchdown while throwing two interceptions. Biller racked up yards in the second half rushing six times for 119 yards and two scores. Biller's 94 yard touchdown run set a Trine school record, eclipsing Michael Newbill's 87 yard scramble in 2001 against St. Francis. Hence led the Trine receivers with three catches for 44 yards, while adding in three kick returns for 140 yards.
Both squads ran for over 200 yards, Trine with 255 and River Falls with 276. The Falcons also held a 195-to-166 advantage in passing yards. However, it was not converting on third downs and in the red zone that cost River Falls several opportunities. The Falcons were 9-for21 on third down compared to 5-for-12 for Trine. In the red zone, River Falls was 3-for-6 while the Thunder were 1-for-3.
Trine will take the week off before opening conference play as they host Adrian College on homecoming, October 1 at 1:00 p.m.