BLUFFTON, OHIO -- Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology moved to 4-0 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference football action with its largest in-game comeback since 1988 in a 34-26 victory at Bluffton University on Saturday.
Rose-Hulman rallied from a 20-0 deficit in the first quarter to earn the eight-point win for its largest comeback since a 33-27 at Hanover College in 1988.
Senior Ryan Landwehr (Tipp City, Ohio/Tippecanoe) finished 24-35 through the air for 285 yards and two touchdowns to lead the 518-yard offensive attack. Senior Danya Francis (Kissimmee, Fla./Celebration) provided balance with 151 rushing yards on 37 carries with two touchdowns, and Landwehr added 76 rushing yards and one score.
The Fightin' Engineer offense also recorded 31 first downs on Saturday, matching the school record set against Principia in 1973.
Conner Sheehan led the Bluffton offense with an 18-30 performance through the air for 366 yards and four touchdowns in his first college start. Donovan Brown had eight receptions for 203 yards and three touchdowns, including first quarter touchdown catches of 62 and 59 yards to help the Beavers build their early lead.
Defensively, freshman Kevin Nowak (Naperville, Ill./Central) and junior Josh Sonneberger (Edon, Ohio) paced the Engineers with nine tackles each. Sonneberger had one fumble recovery and Nowak added two pass breakups. Senior Dean Griffing (Plano, Ill./Aurora Christian) provided pressure with six tackles, 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries.
Bluffton built its first quarter lead with three touchdown passes in the first 11 minutes of the game. Sheehan connected with Brown on a 62-yard strike, Fox on a 72-yard pass and Brown on a 59-yard play for three early scores.
The Rose-Hulman offense found its rhythm late in the first quarter, however. A nine-play, 70-yard march put the Engineers on the board and down 20-7 after Landwehr connected with sophomore Aaron Abbott (Lebanon, Ohio) on a five-yard touchdown strike with 1:15 left in the opening quarter.
The deficit decreased to 20-14 after Rose-Hulman's next scoring march, a seven-play drive that ended with a one-yard Francis run with 9:43 left in the first half.
Both defenses took over until midway through the third quarter, when Sheehan and Brown connected on a 49-yard touchdown with 6:24 remaining. The lead stayed at 26-14 when the Engineers blocked the extra point.
Rose-Hulman answered on its next drive to close within 26-21 with 2:28 left in the third quarter. The 11-play, 70-yard march ended with a 15-yard pass from Landwehr to junior Zac Erba (Winona Lake/Warsaw) for the tight end's first career touchdown catch.
The Fightin' Engineers finally gained the lead at 27-26 on their first drive of the fourth quarter. The 41-yard, eight-play march ended with a nine-yard scoring run by Francis with 13:29 left. Bluffton defended the two-point conversion, keeping the lead at 27-26.
Rose-Hulman answered with another scoring march late in the fourth quarter to gain control of the game. The 11-play, seven-minute drive ended with a two-yard scoring run by Landwehr. The extra point by senior Matt Angel (Cassville, Mo.) gave Rose-Hulman an eight-point lead at 34-26 with 3:59 remaining.
Bluffton's final drive was thwarted by a key intentional grounding penalty that forced a Beavers punt with 3:00 left in the fourth quarter. The Fightin' Engineers were able to grind out one key first down on a five-yard rush by Francis to run out the clock.
Rose-Hulman improved to 4-2 overall and 4-0 in HCAC play with their fourth consecutive win. Bluffton dropped to 1-5 overall and 1-3 in league games. The Fightin' Engineers hold a one-half game lead in the conference standings over 3-0 Franklin after Saturday's win.