The Opening Kick
After two straight games at home, the Grizzlies hit the road for the second time this year, traveling to Bluffton, Ohio for a showdown with the Bluffton Beavers. Both teams enter the weekend looking to stay perfect in HCAC play. Franklin was a 42-12 winner over Defiance in their conference opener while Bluffton downed Mt. St. Joseph, 32-31.
Last Time Out
Franklin used a balanced offensive attack to notch their first win of the year last Saturday, downing Defiance on the annual Tribute to Service Day at Faught Stadium.
The Grizzlies used the run to take a 14-6 lead into the half. FC put the game out of reach on their first three drives of the second half, scoring touchdowns on each possession, giving the team plenty of cushion on their way to a 42-12 win.
Senior Jordan Brown had a career day in the win, rushing for a career-high 121 yards on 17 carries and scoring two touchdowns on the ground. Jacob Earl toted the ball five times for 26 yards and scored his first career touchdown early in the third quarter.
Chase Burton went 13-for-23 for 227 yards and tossed touchdown passes to Lee and Tanner Wroblewski. The game's surprise starter, sophomore QB Braden Smith, went 8-for-13 in the air for 142 yards and one score, hitting Tahjon-McKinney Cole for a 91 yard touchdown late in the game, the first TD of McKinney-Cole's young career.
A complete recap is available on page 11 of the game notes.
Now in his fourth year at the helm of the Beavers, head coach Denny Dorrell and the Beavers needed some late-game magic to down Mt. St. Joseph in the team's HCAC opener. Bluffton kicker Jordan Watkins buried a 37-yard field goal with 30 seconds to play, giving the Beavers a decisive 32-31 win.
Dual-threat quarterback Colby Speice leads the Beavers' offensive attack. The junior signal-caller has rushed for a team-high 177 yards and a pair of touchdowns while throwing for 828 yards and three scores through the air.
Junior halfback Drake Campbell ranks second on the Beavers with 95 yards on 24 carries in 2017. Senior Micah Roberson has been Speice's go-to target, hauling in 26 balls for 322 yards and a touchdown. Junior Kenyon Camden has caught 11 passes for 257 yards and one score on the year, giving the Beavers two legitimate threats on the outside.
On defense, the Beavers boast reigning HCAC Defensive Player of the Year in junior defensive end Isaac Zicakfoose. Zickafoose has 14 tackles on the year and is tied with fellow d-end Ollie Moorer for most sacks on the team with two.
Grizzlies and Beavers All-Time
The teams have matches up 20 times prior to this year with FC holding a 14-6 edge in the all-time series. The Grizzlies have won the last three meetings in the series, including last year's 44-38 shootout in Franklin.
Franklin resumes league play on Saturday and looks to continue their dominance within in the league. Picked as the pre-season favorites by HCAC coaches, the Grizzlies have held court in league play over the last seven years, winning 57 of their last 59 conference games dating back to 2009.
The Grizzlies have shown a knack for big plays in the first three games of the year, with eight of the team's 11 touchdown passes encompassing 28 yards or more. Franklin has four TD passes going for at least 50 yards, with the longest a 91-yard hook-up between Braden Smith and Tahjon McKinney-Cole last week against Defiance.
Spreading the Wealth
The always potent Franklin passing attack has kept opponents off-balance all year. Franklin quarterbacks Burton and Smith have found 11 different players at least once this year and the result has been a 339 passing yards per game and a team passing efficiency rating of 163.97, the top marks in the HCAC in each category.
The Century Mark
McKinney-Cole became the third Franklin receiver to surpass 100-yards in a game last week, joining Deontez Alexander and Lee Wroblewski as the other members of the Grizzlies to hit the century mark for receiving yards in a game. Brown's 121 yard performance against Defiance was the first 100-yard day by any Grizzly running back this year.
A quintet of seniors on the defensive side of the ball have racked up the tackles for Franklin early in the year. Austin Fleming leads the Grizzlies with 31 tackles, ranking second in the HCAC. Senior safety Ryan Conner has recorded 24 tackles, including a team-high 17 solo stops Senior DB Trace Rooks has 22 stops while Jay McClain's 20 tackles gives FC four players over 20 stops this year.
The Hoosier State's Best
The Franklin football program was recently named the top team in the state of Indiana by HeroSports.com. Teams from all four NCAA divisions were considered for the award and based on the Grizzlies' recent run of success under Mike Leonard, the Grizzlies claimed the top spot in the second installment of the award.
Around the HCAC
HCAC play rolls on this week with four more games on tap. Franklin and Bluffton will be the first game to kick off, followed by Anderson at Hanover, Defiance at Rose-Hulman and Mt. St. Joseph at Manchester. Earlham is the lone team on a bye this week.
Follow the Action Live
Grizzly fans will be able to follow the action live with a link to in-game stats that is available at the top of the page. Follow the Grizzlies on Twitter @FCGrizAthletics for in-game updates and post-game coverage.