Defense stands tall, offense rallies for come-from-behind win over Rose-Hulman

Brody Dell

HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover College football team scored 29 unanswered points over the final three quarters Saturday to rally for a 29-14 triumph over Rose-Hulman on Senior and Hall of Fame Day at Alumni Stadium.

The Panthers picked up their second Senior Day victory in the past three years and also kept their HCAC championship hopes alive with one week remaining in the regular season. Rose-Hulman's setback drops the team to 4-5 overall and 4-3 in HCAC competition.

The Fightin' Engineers got off to a fast start by taking a 14-0 lead after the first quarter of play. Hanover was unable to get anything on the scoreboard until junior Dakota Manion (West Lafayette, Ind.) recorded a sack in the end zone for a safety at the 4:02 mark of the second quarter.

Manion was one of three Panther players in double figures for total tackles, finishing with 12. Leading the defensive effort was senior Brody Dell (Tipton, Ind.), who had 13 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and an additional pass breakup. Sophomore Kyle Treber (Mishawaka, Ind.) added 12 stops, while freshman Kiefer Askew (Warner Robins, Ga.) was key in the secondary with four breakups.

The sack gave HC the momentum it needed as the Blue and Red took the final drive of the half 55 yards in nine plays, spanning just 59 seconds, for their first touchdown of the contest. Junior quarterback AJ Breit (Louisville, Ky.), who rushed for 39 yards on the drive, found sophomore Jared Frank (Louisville, Ky.) in the end zone from one-yard out, making the HC deficit 14-9 with four seconds remaining in the half.

Breit finished the contest with 16 completions on 30 attempts for 118 yards but did throw three touchdowns. With sacks taken into consideration, the junior added 36 rushing yards on seven carries as well. Frank had a team-high six catches and was on the receiving end of all three touchdown tosses.

Hanover's defense was stout throughout, especially in the second half, where they held Rose-Hulman to just 61 yards of total offense. With the defense pitching a second half-shutout, the offense rallied for 20 points to secure the win.

Junior Kaleb Grabert (Mount Vernon, Ind.) picked off a pass on the opening drive of the second half, which led to classmate Jake Namisnak (Indianapolis, Ind.) rushing in for a two-yard score. Hanover attempted a two-point conversion, which was picked off and returned for two RHIT points, but a penalty on the Engineers erased the scoring, giving HC a 15-14 lead with 7:21 showing on the third quarter clock.

The duo of Namisnak and sophomore Walt Ballinger (Beech Grove, Ind.) combined for 41 carries and 145 yards, which helped lead to a 212-83 rushing advantage for HC. Overall, Hanover enjoyed a 330-239 edge in total offense.

Breit and Frank connected for the second time later in the period, this time from 11 yards out, as the point-after try from sophomore Austin Steurer (Warsaw, Ky.) gave the Panthers a 22-14 lead with just over 16 minutes left in the contest.

In the fourth quarter, Hanover put together a methodical drive, one that featured 10 straight runs before Breit completed a seven-yard pass to junior Conner Gibson (Lexington, Ky.) and a four-yard toss to Frank for another touchdown. The Blue and Red led 29-14 with 5:18 remaining.

The defense closed out the game, forcing the Engineers into a punt and interception before the final RHIT drive ended with no time showing on the clock.

Hanover's final three touchdown drives accumulated 34 plays and 172 yards, covering 16:31 of the 30-minute half. Overall, HC held a 36:37-23:23 edge in time of possession.

The Blue and Red are still third in the HCAC standings but will make the trip to conference-unbeaten Franklin next Saturday, Nov. 10, for the 88th annual Victory Bell Classic. A Hanover win would force a three-way tie between the Panthers, Grizzlies and Mount St. Joseph at 7-1, and unofficially, give HC the tiebreaker for the automatic national playoff bid. The Blue and Red will look to snap a 13-game skid to the Grizzlies and pick up their first HCAC title since 2003 when the game kicks off at 1:30 p.m. at Faught Stadium.

Contact: Tyler Jester