Rose football stays in HCAC hunt with 20-point win
Apr. 4—After last weekend's heartbreaking three-point loss at Hanover, Rose-Hulman prepared to face one of the other good teams in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference football — Franklin — this weekend at Cook Stadium.
And for the second week in a row, the Engineers had to do so without injured stud receiver Noah Thomas.
Thomas' presence undoubtedly would have helped against Hanover. But Rose found enough weapons to neutralize the Vigo County homecoming of gunslinging quarterback Dane Andrews, a former West Vigo High School standout and already Franklin's starter as a freshman, to post a 34-14 victory Saturday afternoon at Cook Stadium.
Playing a never-done-before spring schedule of only HCAC games because of COVID-19 concerns in 2020, the Engineers improved their record to 3-1, tied with Mount St. Joseph for second place behind 3-0 Hanover. Franklin, which will play host to Hanover next Saturday, fell to 2-2.
On Saturday, junior Shane Welshans rushed for a career-high 159 yards and scored two touchdowns, junior linebacker Michael Stevens returned a pick-six 72 yards in the fourth quarter — when the Grizzlies were hinting at a comeback — and racked up a team-high 11 tackles and the Rose-Hulman defense posted four sacks and intercepted three passes (two thrown by Andrews).
"The defense played outstanding," Rose coach Jeff Sokol told the Tribune-Star afterward. "Michael Stevens was awesome all day. He's the heart and soul of our defense."
The scoreless first quarter featured seven punts, but one of Franklin's was blocked by Kyzer Bowen and recovered by teammate Alex Gresock on the Grizzlies' 18-yard line.
Rose-Hulman's first four plays after that advanced the ball to the visitors' 4, but the fifth play was an Andrew Dion pass intercepted by Franklin's Wyatt Carmack at the goal line and returned 29 yards.
Fortunately for the home team, there was more offensive production in the second quarter.
Its first play was a 47-yard connection from Dion to Jake Zimmerman, whose momentum forced him to step out of bounds at the Grizzlies' 1. On the next play, 5-foot-4 sophomore Lance Shelton busted up the middle to paydirt and Adam Clark followed with the extra-point kick to give the Engineers a 7-0 advantage.
Franklin's next possession lasted 11 plays, but it ended at the Rose 29 when a fourth-and-1 run was stopped for no gain by the Engineers' Ezenna Cmadu and Andrew Hesse.
Rose-Hulman capitalized on its gift by marching 71 yards on 10 plays, culminating with a 6-yard swing pass from Dion to Welshans, who maneuvered into the end zone and helped boost the home team's lead to 14-0 midway through the second period.
Up 14-0 on a program that had beaten the Engineers in each of the previous three seasons. Rose didn't rest on its laurels in the third frame.
On its first possession, it capped off a six-play, 51-yard drive with a 4-yard TD run by Welshans, who tip-toed across the goal line after initially avoiding a wall of humanity.
With Rose-Hulman leading 21-0, the strong-armed Andrews tried to pass Franklin back into contention. But soon one of his attempts was intercepted by Rose safety Rashard Brown at the home squad's 33.
The Engineers didn't score on that possession, forcing them to punt back to the Grizzlies, but Brown quickly stepped in again and picked off an aerial from another Franklin freshman QB by the name of Spencer Wright. Brown returned this one 15 yards to the 50.
This time, Rose-Hulman eventually scored on a 27-yard field goal by Clark to pad its cushion to 24-0 with 0:37 left in the third period.
With the arrival of the fourth quarter came the familiar passing accuracy of Andrews, which he put on display with a 15-yarder to Brock Finkbiner of Marshall, Ill., and a 33-yarder to Ryan Poole, which set up Derek Thompson's 2-yard TD run with 13:24 showing on the scoreboard.
Clark's 26-yard field goal kept Rose with a comfortable margin at 27-7. But Andrews immediately unleashed a bomb to an open Poole, who caught it at the Rose 40, sprinted away from a defender and dived over the right pylon to complete a 70-yard touchdown with 7:21 remaining.
The Grizzlies then forced Rose-Hulman's offense into a punt after three plays totaling zero yards and scared the socially distant home crowd by getting the ball back with only a 27-14 deficit and soaring momentum.
That momentum came tumbling down to earth with a giant thud three plays later, however. That's when Andrews scrambled valiantly to avoid two would-be sacks before uncorking an off-balance pass that was snagged by Stevens and returned 72 yards in front of the Rose sideline for a TD, sealing the outcome with 5:07 left.
"[Andrews] kept the play alive and Michael did a nice job of staying disciplined in his assignment," Sokol said. "He got the ball thrown right to him. He kept playing 'til the whistle and he got rewarded for it."
Andrews ended up completing 14 of 34 attempts for 241 yards and the one TD to Poole. His minus-18 yards of net rushing included the four sacks that the Engineers' defense pinned on him.
In addition to Andrews and Finkbiner, other athletes from the Wabash Valley and nearby listed on the Franklin roster are Nick Winders of Cloverdale, Michael Heading of Brazil, Tristan Vincz of Bloomfield, Jake Tharp of Marshall, Ill., Austin Petrillo of Kingman, Logan White of Rockville, Colby West of Cayuga, Coy Landrum of Paris, Ill., Jordan Meyer of Greencastle and Braden Hartman of Terre Haute. Alan Hensell is the Grizzlies' first-year head coach.
Rose-Hulman will play its final home game of the season next Saturday against Manchester at Cook Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m.
"We are absolutely making the most out of this season," Sokol emphasized. "Every game means just as much to our kids as it would in a normal fall season.
"Our kids always play hard. This spring has certainly been no exception. They've laid it all on the line and put tremendous effort into each game we've played."
Rose-Hulman 34, Franklin 14
RH — Shelton 1 run (Clark kick), 14:46 2Q
RH — Welshans 6 pass from Dion (Clark kick), 6:23 2Q
RH — Welshans 4 run (Clark kick), 11:45 3Q
RH — FG Clark 27, 0:37 3Q
FC — Thompson 2 run (Brown kick), 13:24 4Q
RH — FG Clark 26, 7:34 4Q
FC — Poole 70 pass from Andrews (Brown kick), 7:21 4Q
RH — Stevens 72 interception return (Clark kick), 5:07 4Q
Times of possession=25:06=34:54
Rushing — Franklin, Thompson 17-64, Johnson 8-24, Wright 3-13, Seim 1-4, Andrews 7-(-18). Rose-Hulman, Welshans 33-159, Dion 7-62, Shelton 7-18, Hobbs 2-14, Ripperda 2-1, Schmidt 1-0, team 1-(-3).
Passing — Franklin, Andrews 14-34-2 241, Wright 2-4-1 27. Rose-Hulman, Dion 17-31-1 140.
Receiving — Franklin, Gibson 4-47, Poole 3-112, Thompson 3-47, Finkbiner 2-18, Schmidt 2-17, Corwin 1-16, Petrillo 1-11. Rose-Hulman, Hobbs 6-38, Saliu 4-22, Welshans 3-19, Zimmerman 2-51, Ballard 1-13, Ripperda 1-(-3).
Leading tacklers — Franklin, Stambaugh 10-1-11, Winders 8-2-10, Levers 8-1-9, Swindle 6-1-7, Wilkerson 5-1-6. Rose-Hulman, Stevens 8-3-11, Bowen 7-3-10, Mefford 7-1-8, Hesse 2-3-5.