TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - The Beavers won an insane Heartland Conference matchup at Rose-Hulman Institue of Technology on Saturday, Oct. 6. After three straight missed field goals at the end of regulation and in the first two overtimes, junior Austin Sweeney (Adrian Mich./Whitmer) quickly turned into the hero when he made the game-winning 21-yard field goal in the third extra session. The win moved Bluffton's record to 4-2 (3-1 HCAC), while the loss dropped Rose-Hulman to 2-4 (2-2 HCAC). It marked the first-ever three overtime game for the Beavers.
The Beavers began the game on fire with two quick scores. The first was a 1-yard touchdown run by Airic Steagall (Hillsboro); the second an 11-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Wright (Troy) to Ryan Sabin (Canal Winchester). The two scores gave the Beavers a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Rose-Hulman responded in the second quarter with consecutive 15-play drives. However, these drives both ended in field goals by Craig Larew as the Bluffton defense refused to break. On the Engineers' third drive of the second quarter, Greg Lee got free in the red zone for a 12-yard touchdown run, cutting the Beaver lead to a single point.
The visitors were able to respond before they went to the locker room when Steagall hooked up with Shawn Frost (Edison/Mt. Gilead) for a 15-yard touchdown pass to give Bluffton a 21-13 lead after two periods.
The beginning of the third quarter was dominated by Bluffton. Calib Alexander (Ocala,Fla./St. John Lutheran) broke free for a 41-yard touchdown run. After a Sweeney 22-yard field goal, the Beavers were out to a comfortable 31-13 lead with four minutes to go in the quarter.
Rose-Hulman was not ready to cash in its chips, however. A 64-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Snyder to Jacob Dye cut the Beaver lead to 31-19. Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Snyder threw a 31-yard touchdown to Marcus Washington, trimming the Beaver lead to single digits at 31-26.
After Sweeney made a 24-yard field goal for the Beavers, Rose-Hulman began another big drive which was capped by a Danya Francis 1-yard scoring plunge. Shane Boschert hauled in the two-point conversion to knot the game at 34.
Bluffton was able to put together a 14-play, 64-yard drive while moving the chains five times. However, Sweeney's 37-yard field goal went wide right and with that miss, the game was sent into overtime.
Both teams traded three-and-outs, followed by missed field goals during the first two overtime periods. During the third overtime, Rose-Hulman converted a first down, but Larew missed the 20 yard field goal, his third straight following regulation.
During Bluffton's drive in the third overtime, Steagall picked up 10 yards for a first down on the first play. Three runs later and he had the Beavers on the 4-yard line. From there, Austin Sweeney capped the victory by making a 21-yard field goal to get the Beavers their third conference win.
Tyler Wright was the leader in this game for the Beavers, completing 16 of his 22 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 52 yards. Airic Steagall also had a monster day with 25 rushes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Sabin was the leading receiver for the Beavers with six receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown.
For the Engineers, Mitch Snyder also had a big day at quarterback, completing 30 of his 50 attempts for 342 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 49 yards. Running back Danya Francis picked up big yardage, rushing 28 times for 117 yards and a touchdown. Jacob Dye had a solid day with seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown.
The offenses combined for over 1,000 yards on the afternoon with Bluffton going for 498 of them and 25 first downs. The Beavers had a 238-230 edge on the ground, while RHIT finished with a 342-260 advantage through the air. Bluffton won the time of possession battle (34:59-25:01) and the Beavers converted on 8-of-17 third down opportunities. The visitors made good on 6-of-9 trips inside the red zone, compared with 4-of-8 by Rose.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior Ben Kaufman (Ottawa/Ottawa-Glandorf) led the way with 16 tackles, including 10 solos. Junior Josh Runda (Lima/Bath) chipped in with 11 tackles, two of them for losses.
Bluffton will be back in action next Saturday, Oct. 13, for their Homecoming contest as they take on the Hanover Panthers, who are undefeated in the HCAC. The game is slated to start at 1:30 p.m. in Salzman Stadium.