Tiffin University (8-1, 6-0 GMAC) won its biggest game yet in the 2019 football season, staying perfect in conference play with a 35-24 win over Hillsdale on Senior Day.
The game figured to be a close one, and it delivered as the Dragons, who never trailed in the game, managed to pull away with a solid second half and an aggressive defense that registered three sacks and two interceptions.
The Dragons defense started to make its mark from the outset, as The-Moor Kelly picked off a Hillsdale pass and returned it 47 yards to the Hillsdale 28 yard line to set up TU's second possession. TU promptly responded, as Nick Watson ran it in from 5 yards out to make it 7-0 at the 10:17 mark.
A big 65 yard kick return by Hillsdale led to a 27 yard field goal that made the score 7-3, but the Dragons scored again on their next possession as they set the tone on the ground with 7 rushing plays in an 8 play drive that ended with a 1 yard JaQuan Hardy run for a TD at the 5:00 mark.
A fumble by Watson on Tiffin's 4 yard line gave Hillsdale a golden opportunity to narrow the margin, and they scored on a 2 yard run that made the score 14-10 as the first quarter wound to a close.
Early in the second quarter, the Dragons continued their impressive ground attack, with Hardy gaining 35 more yards on three carries. He scored on another one yard run that pushed TU's lead to 21-10 at the 12:23 mark of the second quarter.
Hillsdale then put together one of its most impressive drives of the day, marching 72 yards on 12 plays and eating up 6:33 on the clock before scoring on a 4 yard run that made the score 21-17 with 5:45 left in the half.
After the half, TU's defense took control, not allowing any more scores from the Chargers until just 2:02 was left on the clock. The defense stopped Hillsdale on a fourth and one play to open the second half, giving TU the ball on the Hillsdale 38 yard line.
The Dragons wasted little time taking advantage, as Watson ran it in from 14 yards out to push TU's lead to 28-17.
Hillsdale continued to try and establish the run but Tiffin held the Chargers to just 116 yards rushing (2.8 per rush).
After Hillsdale came up short on another fourth down play on the TU 32 yard line, Tiffin struck with a big play, as Watson hit Stanley Jackson Jr. on a play over the middle that Jackson took 64 yards for a TD that gave the Dragons an 18 point lead with 12:45 left in the game.
Jermaine Wimpye picked off a Hillsdale pass to kill the Chargers next drive. TU responded with an 80 yard drive that eventually stalled on the Hillsdale 5 yard line but more importantly ate up 7:46 of clock time.
Hillsdale managed to put together a 95 yard drive for a score to finish the scoring, but Tiffin's lead was too great as they maintained the 11 point victory.
Despite four turnovers in the game, the Dragons overcame with a punishing ground attack that racked up 274 yards (6.1 per rush). They outgained Hillsdale overall 403-305.
Hardy had one of his best games of the year, totaling 192 yards on 23 carries (8.3 per rush), while Watson added 49 yards. Jackson had 91 yards receiving, while Watson completed 10 of 20 passes for 129 yards.
Defensively Carrington Contee had 10 tackles, while Justice Waller had 8 stops. Charlie Cleveland had another big day on the line, making 7 tackles with a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Zach Goecke had 6 tackles, while Cameron Fox, AJ Wright, and Marvin Radford all had sacks. Kelly and Wimpye added interceptions.