KALAMAZOO, Mich. - In their conference opener, the Trine University football team fought off a second half comeback by Kalamazoo to take down the Hornets 30-20. The Thunder improve to 3-2 on the season with the victory.
The Thunder opening the game by scoring on their first drive, going 81 yards on just seven plays to go up early. Senior quarterback Ryan Hargraves (Taylor, Mich./Truman) found sophomore tight end Zach Hess (Eagle, Mich./Grand Ledge) on a 41-yard pass to take the Thunder down inside the red-zone. From there senior Mike Inge (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Northern) ran the ball on back-to-back plays, scoring from 9 yards out.
After forcing a three-and-out on the Hornets first possession, the Thunder would charge 57 yards down the field as junior Tyler Keck (Elkhart, Ind./Elkhart Memorial) would drill his first field goal of the day from 30 yards out.
The Thunder defense would again force Kalamazoo to punt, allowing the Hornets offense just 7 yards. This time Trine needed just five plays and 1:43 to score as Hargraves found fellow senior JaVontae Hence (Elkhart, Ind./Concord) for the 30-yard touchdown.
Kalamazoo would earn their first, first down of the game on their opening possession of the second quarter before Aaron McGuire was able to scramble 50 yards for the score. Trine would go three-and-out as Kalamazoo followed with another score, this time on a 24-yard pass. The Hornets would miss field goals from 41 and 25 yards, the latter coming with just three second left in the half as Trine would head to the locker room with a 17-14 lead.
The Hornets came back out in the second half and scored on their opening possession, scoring from 7 yards out, but the PAT would be missed. That would be the final time the Hornets would find the end zone as the Trine defense stepped it up from there.
Later in the third quarter, Trine would use a short field, going just 36 yards capped off by a 1-yard run by Hargraves for the score, as the Thunder regained the lead for good.
Keck would add two field goals in the fourth quarter, a career-long from 40 yards followed by a 27-yard field goal with 6:07 left in the game.
Late in the quarter Kalamazoo attempted to pull within three, as they went for it on 4th-and-5, but sophomore Ryan Hogan (Vine Grove, Ky./Meade County) came up with his second sack of the season to give Trine the ball back on downs. On the Hornets final possession, Kalamazoo would drive down to the Thunder 10, but the defense would hold strong as they forced three incomplete passes to end the game.
Hargraves finished the afternoon with a season-high 211 passing yards while completing 18-of-24 through the air. Hence also caught a season-high 11 passes from Hargraves for 137 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, Inge finished just 2 yards shy of the century mark, finishing the day with 98 yards on 25 carries.
In all, the Thunder defense recorded seven sacks (all solo) on the day which is second most in school history and was the most since they also recoding seven as a team against Kentucky Christian on November 14, 2009. Danesi's three individual sacks are also tied for second most in school history, behind Nathan Denton who recorded 3.5 sacks on September 11, 2010 at Bluffton.
Both teams had 14 third-down opportunities, as Kalamazoo converted on six of them and the Thunder five. The Hornets finished the afternoon with more offensive yardage, out-gaining Trine 378-350. The key difference in the game came in the red-zone as Trine was a perfect 4-for-4 while the Thunder defense held Kalamazoo to 2-for-5 on opportunities.
Trine will celebrate homecoming with their toughest test of the season when they host defending conference champion Albion College on October 6 at 1:00 p.m.