ALMA, Mich. - It was big day for the Trine University football defense as they forced four turnovers in their 26-0 win over conference opponent Alma College. The Thunder are now 5-1 on the season and 1-1 in the MIAA.
Over the course of the first combined five possessions between the two teams, neither was able to get a drive going over four plays. Finally, on Trine's third possession, a fourth and 11, 22 yard pass completion from quarterback Ryan Hargraves (Taylor, Mich./Truman) to junior Will Chrystal (Portage, Mich./Northern) put the Thunder in striking distance. From there junior Devin Leas (Poneto, Ind./Southern Wells) pounded the ball into the end zone on a fourth and goal from the 1 yard line.
Two possessions later, the Thunder would find the end zone again setup by senior Brock Reinig (Leo, Ind./Leo) forcing an Alma fumble and sophomore Jordan Hamilton (Churubusco, Ind./Churubusco) recovering the ball at the Alma 22. After an Alma personal foul moved the ball to the five yard line, Hargraves again found Chrystal on the right side of the end zone for the score.
Trine nearly got the ball right back, as Alma fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but the Scots were able to recover it at their own 16.
Trine forced the Scots to punt on their next two possessions as the defense allowed just 23 yards of offense. On the Thunder's final possession of the half, the offense started at their own 20. The Thunder were driving into Alma territory but a personal foul and a holding penalty knocked Trine out of scoring range as they led 13-0 at the half.
On the Scots opening drive of the second half, sophomore Blaek Combs (Rushville, Ind./Rushville) forced another Alma fumble as freshman Jeremiah Harvey (Colver, Ind./Colver) recovered and returned it to the Alma 32. Eight players later, Hargraves found junior Ja Vontae Hence (Elkhart, Ind./Concord) cutting across the middle of the field who then ran it in for a six yard score.
With Alma driving into Trine territory on their next possession, junior Ben Mohr (Boggstown, Ind./Triton Central) picked off the Alma pass that deflected off a Scots receiver. After Alma was called for pass interference near the goal line, freshman Jared Barton (Middleton, Mich./Fulton) scored his first career touchdown on a 15 yard run.
The Thunder kept the shutout in tack when they stopped the Scots longest drive of the game early in the fourth quarter. Alma drove down to the Trine 1 yard line, for a first and goal. The Scots were called for an ineligible player downfield on second down pushing them back five yards. From there, three straight incomplete passes gave the Thunder the ball back on downs.
The Scots would get the ball right back and would again drive down the field, this time to the six yard line. Alma this time was called for a false start pushing them back once again. The Scots ran the ball to the seven, but the Thunder defense forced two incomplete passes, forcing Alma to again turn the ball over on downs, allowing Trine to run the clock out with just over five minutes left in the game.
Barton earned his first career start at running back, replacing the injured veteran Kent Biller. Barton showed he could handle the pressure running for 146 yards on 22 carries. Fellow freshman Austin Shoemaker (Huntington, Ind./Huntington North) contributed to the running game with 11 carries for 48 yards. In the pocket, Hargraves was 10-for-14 for 75 yards in the air. Chrystal led the Thunder receivers with three catches for 38 yards, while Hence also had three catches for 10 yards.
Senior Aaron Shoemaker (Onsted, Mich./Onsted) led the Trine defense with eight tackles, five solo and one for a loss. Shoemaker also broke up two passes. Sophomore Myron Puryear (Plymouth, Mich./Canton) had a solid day on defense with five pass breakups and a tackle for loss. Junior Raymond Nelson (Cassopolis, Mich./Ross Beatty) also had an interception.
Trine held Alma to a season-low 56 yards rushing and 212 yards of total offense. The Thunder held the ball for almost double the amount the Scots had possession, 39:51-to-20:09. The Trine defense also played solid on third down, as the Scots were just 3-for-15 on third down conversions.
Trine will return home for their October 22 game against Hope College starting at 1:00 p.m.