NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – A strong aerial attack for Manchester University Thursday, Sept. 5, couldn't overcome a stingy Trine University defense in the season opener for both squads.
Senior quarterback Nick Williams (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and sophomore quarterback Logan Haston (Avon, Ind.) combined for 222 yards and were 22 of 43 with one interception between them. The air totals made up for all but 47 of the Spartans' 269 yards of total offense. The visiting Thunder of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association put up 334 yards of total offense as part of a 19-3 victory.
Playing in front of a large crowd at Carl W. Burt Memorial Field on Community Night, the home side, looking to extend NCAA Division III's fourth-longest win streak, came out of the gates like they ended 2012. With Williams and junior running back Austin Adams (Dowagiac, Mich.) moving the team inside Trine's 30-yard line on the opening possession, the Spartan faithful were on the verge of celebrating early success. However, the first of MU's two turnovers occurred on an interception that helped spark the Thunder.
A 10-play, 68-yard march, fueled by the quick feet of junior signal caller Anthony Yoder and junior running back Austin Shoemaker, put the visitors into the end zone. Yoder connected with sophomore wide receiver Gage Conner for the final 32 yards and the score. The count remained that way until MU's special teams turned in a big play early in the second stanza.
Junior return specialist Brice Peyton (Covington, Ind.) took a Trine punt and weaved his way down to the visitors' 30-yard line. The Black and Gold moved down to the doorstep of the Thunder end zone, but Trine's defense halted the charge at the four-yard line. Freshman place-kicker Riley Ellington (Indianapolis, Ind.) converted his first field goal attempt, hitting from 26 yards to make tit 7-3. The Thunder were able to counter quickly, though, as senior running back Richard Gunn broke free from a scrum pile at his own 30 on the ensuing kickoff and bolted down to the Spartans' nine-yard line as part of an 83-yard kickoff return. TU converted four plays later when senior placekicker Tyler Keck, beginning a run of four straight made field goals to wrap up the scoring, hit from 31 yards.
From there, MU's offense was limited to just over 125 yards and zero points in the second half. Trine marched 58 yards on its second possession of the third period with keck hitting a 25-yard field goal and then got the ball back seven plays later near midfield after a Spartan fumble. Seven plays later, Keck lined up from 36 yards and was true again. The final Thunder points occurred in the fourth quarter after the Black and Gold was held on downs deep in its own end. Keck made a 36-yard field goal for the 19-3 final.
Three Black and Gold receivers made the most of Manchester University's aerial opportunities. Freshman Dakota Nelson (Fairland, Ind.) and sophomore Lance Shifferly (Decatur, Ind.) each hauled in five receptions. Junior Collin Huffine (Centerville, Ind.) added four receptions and topped the group yardage-wise (78).
The Spartans resume a two-game home stand to begin the year Saturday, Sept. 14, when Kalamazoo College visits North Manchester for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
NOTES: MU's defense put together an impressive evening. Senior linebackers Dylin Kennedy (North Manchester, Ind.) and Zach Dashner (South Bend, Ind.) accounted for a combined 16 tackles. Kennedy also registered one of the unit's two sacks with junior defensive end Stephen Coble (Edwardsburg, Mich.) taking the other. … Other "D" highlights went to senior defensive lineman Scott Barry (Plymouth, Ind.), who had three tackles for losses among his five-and-a-half total; freshman cornerback Jarvis Mitchell (South Bend, Ind.), who blocked a fifth Trine field attempt and had one of three break-ups; and junior linebacker Evan West (Hartford City, Ind.) who turned in two tackles for losses as part of his six tackles. … Trine's win increased their series streak to seven.