The No. 19th-ranked Franklin College football team scored 28 second-half points and held a fourth-quarter lead before losing 30-27 at No. 1-ranked University of Mount Union in Saturday's season opener at Mount Union Stadium in Alliance, Ohio. The Grizzlies held a 27-23 lead with 7:09 left in the game after a one-yard score from junior Sam Otley (Indianapolis, Ind./Roncalli).
The defending NCAA Division III national champions answered right back on the following drive to regain the lead. Mason Minnich capped off a seven-play, 79-yard drive to give the hosts a 30-27 lead with 4:17 left in the game.
The Purple Raiders scored 14 first-quarter points to grab early momentum. Joshua Scott returned an interception 38 yards for one touchdown. Later, Germany Woods capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run with 5:39 left in the opening quarter.
Mount Union quarterback Kevin Burke hooked up with Jack Nicholls for a five-yard pass with 11:50 remaining in the first half to give Mount Union a 20-0 advantage.
Then, it was Franklin's turn to light up the scoreboard in the second half. Special teams gave the three-time defending Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference champions momentum on the opening kickoff of the second half.
Senior Kyle Holzbog (Huntingburg, Ind./Southridge) forced a fumble that was recovered by classmate Matt Walker (North Vernon, Ind./Jennings Country) at Mount Union's 8-yard line. Senior running back Joey Pasquale (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) punched it in with a two-yard rush.
Later in the third quarter, senior quarterback Jonny West (Speedway, Ind./Speedway) found junior Zach Cole (Middletown, Ind./Shenandoah) for a 15-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 23-14 with under two minutes left in the period.
After the Grizzilies' defense stopped Mount Union, the offense scored again through the air as West connected with junior Jonny Hession (Speedway, Ind./Speedway) for a 34-yard touchdown pass. The scoring play put the Franklin within two, 23-21, at the 13:42 mark of the fourth quarter.
Then, the team scored again and failed on the two-point conversion. Those 27 points were the most that Mount Union had allowed since a game in the 2004 season,
Individually, West went 16-of-29 for 203 yards with two touchdowns to lead the passing attack. Cole had five receptions for 72 yards, including a score. Senior Kyle Linville (Speedway, Ind./Speedway) had three catches for 53 yards.
On the ground, Pasquale had 11 carries and a touchdown. Junior Grant Welp (Ferdinand, Ind./Forest Park) gained a team-high 62 yards on the ground.
Franklin returns to action on Saturday, September 7 at 6 p.m. by hosting Butler University in the first night game at Faught Stadium.