Franklin, Ind. - An opportunistic Franklin College football team continued its mastery of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) with Saturday's 44-38 victory over previously undefeated Bluffton University at Faught Stadium.
The Grizzlies, 3-1 overall and 2-0 in HCAC play, converted three third-quarter Bluffton turnovers into 20 points to reverse a 17-14 halftime deficit into a lead that they never relinquished. Two more touchdown drives pushed the hosts' lead to 44-31 with 1:43 remaining, before a late score by the Beavers provided the final six-point victory margin.
Franklin, ranked No. 20 in the D3football.com poll and No. 23 in the American Football Coaches Association's Division III poll, has now won 19 straight HCAC games and 51 of its last 52 league contests.
Linebacker Nathan Warman had a pass interception and fumble recovery to help lead the Grizzlies' third-quarter comeback. On the second play of the period, the junior stepped in front of a pass by Bluffton quarterback Conner Sheehan at the Beavers' 32-yard line. Warman returned the interception to the opponent's 9-yard line, setting up a touchdown pass on the very next play from junior quarterback Chase Burton to junior wide receiver Deontez Alexander. That gave the Grizzlies a 21-17 lead.
Later, after a Bluffton touchdown once again put the team ahead 24-21, Warman recovered a fumble at the visitor's 31-yard line. The loose ball in the backfield was forced by senior Franklin defensive back D.J. Campbell.
Franklin once again struck quickly, with junior wingback Lee Wroblewski tossing a 31-yard flea flicker scoring pass to his brother Tanner Wroblewski on the first play following the turnover. A blocked extra-point kick gave the hosts a 27-24 advantage.
Then, the Grizzlies closed out the key third quarter with senior defensive back Taylor Christensen intercepting a pass at the Franklin 36-yard line. Six plays later, Burton connected with sophomore split end Ben Fleet on a nine-yard scoring pass, and the ensuing extra-point kick gave the team a 34-24 lead with 3:32 lead in the period.
A 45-yard touchdown run by senior running back Ty'Ronte Files and a 31-yard field goal by sophomore placekicker Tanner Anderson built a 44-31 lead late in the game, before Bluffton scored with 38 seconds remaining to keep things close.
Burton threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers in totaling 327 yards in the game. Junior split end Darrell Crenshaw and Alexander each caught five passes, and Files had four catches while rushing for a game-high 98 yards, nearly half of them coming on his touchdown run. Tanner Wroblewski also had four receptions.
Bluffton, 3-1 overall and 1-1 in HCAC play, was led by Sheehan, who completed 40 passes for 463 yards and four touchdowns. Eighteen of the passes went to wide receiver Micah Roberson, including a 20-yard scoring pass. Wide receiver Raphael Dell had two scoring passes among his nine receptions for the game.
Franklin will travel to Manchester University for another HCAC game on Saturday, October 1 at 1:30 p.m. in North Manchester, Indiana. Bluffton takes a week off before returning to Indiana to play at Anderson University on Saturday, October 8.