By: Ryan Schadewald, sports information assistant
ANDERSON, Ind. - The Bluffton University football team used a dominant defensive effort to come home with a 24-0 victory over Anderson University on Saturday, Nov. 8. The Beavers were able to hold the Ravens to just 115 yards of offense in the contest, securing their third consecutive shutout and fourth straight victory over Anderson despite handing the ball to the Ravens four times in the contest. The visitors improved to 5-4 overall and 5-2 in HCAC play while the Ravens fell to 2-7 and 2-5 in the conference.
The 115 yards allowed by the Bluffton defense is the second fewest yards surrendered by the Beavers in a game since Bluffton began playing in the HCAC in 1998. The fewest number of yards given up by the Beavers during that time span was 67 when they defeated Hiram College 45-0 in September of 2002.
The Beaver offense started hot, going on a 12-play, 59-yard drive that ended in an interception thrown by Nick Sheehan (Monroeville, Ind./Heritage) inside the end zone, eliminating a scoring chance for the Beavers. The scoring began at the midway portion of the first stanza when freshman kicker Jordan Watkins (Reynoldsburg) nailed a 27-yard field goal to cap a nine-play drive that gave the Beavers a 3-0 lead.
The score stayed 3-0 until late in the second quarter when on the ninth play of a drive, Sheehan completed a pass to sophomore Micah Roberson (Ada) in the end zone, giving the Beavers a 10-0 spread heading into the locker room. The score was set up by a 31-yard pass, also to Roberson, early in the drive. The Ravens managed just 48 yards of offense in the half with 31 of them coming on the final play, a scramble by quarterback Brady Cavinee.
The third quarter was very quiet on the offensive side of the football with the longest drive being a 30-yarder that ended in an interception by Sheehan late in the period. The Beavers were finally able to get back on the scoreboard with 6:27 to go when Conner Sheehan (Monroeville, Ind./Heritage) completed a 31-yard strike to Jack Tomlinson (Westerville/South) which set up Bluffton at the one-yard line. Sophomore Dustin Fisher (St. Marys/Memorial) finished with a 1-yard TD run, pushing the score to 17-0. On Bluffton's final drive of the ball game, Conner Sheehan feigned the handoff to Carroll and took it in from 38 yards out to put an exclamation point on the 24-0 shutout.
Bluffton outgained the home team 345-115, with a balanced attack of 179 yards rushing and 166 yards passing. The Beavers also ran 30 more plays than the Ravens and dominated the time of possession battle 36:58 to 23:02.
Signal-caller Nick Sheehan was 13-of-28 for 135 yards but threw four interceptions in the first three quarters of action. Nick's younger brother Conner came into the contest in the fourth quarter and was 1-for-2 for 31 yards passing with an additional 38 yards rushing and the final touchdown on the ground. Bluffton tailback Dante Carroll (Gahanna/Lincoln) had a monster game with 33 carries for a career-best 130 yards to grind down the Raven defense. Tomlinson led Bluffton with 81 yards receiving and five catches on the afternoon.
Ryan Aelker (New Bavaria/Holgate) paced the defense with six tackles, three of them for loss, including a sack. His three TFLs gives him 19.5 on the season, which moved him to the top of Bluffton's all-time single season list. He passed Justin Crosier who racked up 19 in 2010 and 16.5 in 2011. Current linebackers coach and 2014 grad Josh Runda is fourth on the list with 16. His sack also helped him add to his Bluffton record as he now has 11.5 quarterback stuffs this season.
The Bluffton University football team finishes the season on Saturday, Nov. 15, as they will be at home to take on arch-rival Defiance College. The Senior Day contest will kick off at 1:30 p.m. in Salzman Stadium. Bluffton will be working on its fifth straight 'Hammer' while also looking to establish a school record with its sixth Heartland Conference victory, a win that would propel the home team to a third place finish in the HCAC. Come support your Beavers!