FB: A shortcoming at Homecoming

Photo by Mason Hainey
Photo by Mason Hainey

TIFFIN -- Amid a persistent, breezy drizzle that seemed symbolic of their play, the Heidelberg University football was soundly defeated by Muskingum University on Homecoming, 41-14. Tied at 14 after 15 minutes, the Muskies controlled the clock and the scoreboard over the final three quarters.

The loss sent Heidelberg back to 4-4, 3-4 in the OAC. With their victory, the Muskies now share an identical record.

Muskingum had the ball for 39:37 and outgained Heidelberg 427-288.

Third-down conversions were a struggle for the Student Princes, who managed to convert on 4-of-13 chances. Their counterparts were 8-of-15.

Jace Grossman tied a career high with a pair of rushing touchdowns. He finished with 44 yards on nine carries.

Quarterback Trace Reynolds was 15-for-31 passing for 175 yards and two costly interceptions in Muskingum territory.

A three-and-out and a bad punt seemed to set an early tone for the Student Princes. The Muskies cashed in quickly as Brody Hahn scored the first of his four touchdowns, which came on a 7-yard run that capped a six-play, 50-yard drive.

Buoyed by a large, yet saturated, Homecoming crowd, Heidelberg responded right away. Two big pass plays to Maceo Matthews -- one for 16 yards and the other for 35 yards -- put HU into the Muskie red zone. Six plays later, including a six-yard run by Reynolds on 4th-and-5, Grossman plunged in from three yards out. Austin Baker's PAT tied the game.

It wasn't long before the visitors were back in front. On their second play, Hahn hit Amin Shaheed for a nice 69-yard pitch and catch for the score. Gavin Costello, who enjoyed a great day kicking, tacked on the PAT.

Tramon Wiley returned the ensuing kickoff back to the Heidelberg 45 yardline, setting up the offense with good field position. Branden Short caught a pass on third down that extended the drive long enough for Grossman to knife into the end zone.

Knotted at 14 to start the second, Muskingum used Costello field goals of 36 and 33 yards on consecutive drives to take a 20-14 edge.

With time winding down before halftime, the Muskies cashed in with another Hahn touchdown -- an 8-yarder with 25 seconds left to play before halftime. The Student Princes did threaten to score in the final seconds, but a 47-yard field goal attempt by Baker sailed wide right.

In desperate need of a stop, HU forced a punt to start the third. Their subsequent drive, however, stalled near midfield. Baker attempted to throw the ball on a fake punt, but it fell incomplete.

Bolstered by excellent field position, Hahn carried the ball on eight of the nine plays the Muskies needed to score again.

Down 34-14, Heidelberg had pinned the visitors deep and forced Jarett Patton to punt from his own goalline. The ball was downed at the Muskingum 40, and the Student Princes were poised to claw back in the game.

The momentum, though, was short-lived. Reynolds had a pass picked off by Brian Brown at the 25 yard line.

The next Heidelberg drive ended in a similar manner. With the ball on the cusp of the red zone, Reynolds's pass was intercepted by Caleb Gaithers at the 15. Gaithers sprinted down the Heidelberg sideline before Reynolds was able to trip him up at the Heidelberg 10.

Though Reynolds's hustle prevented the pick-six, the Muskies converted the turnover into points as Hahn went in from six yards out.

Defensively, Zach Blackiston led the way for Heidelberg with 12 tackles.

Tramon Wiley had success on kickoff returns. He compiled 156 yards on six attempts.

Hahn finished with 121 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He was a mere 5-of-11 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown.

The loss snapped a string of eight-straight Heidelberg wins over Muskingum.

Head coach Scott Donaldson on the tough game: "We were just poor across the board, from the coaches to the players, from the sidelines to the field...it was a bad Saturday, we couldn't recover and stop a rush on third down, and our offense couldn't continue drives...credit does go to Muskingum, they executed well."

Donaldson on moving forward: "We need to build on those nice plays early on by Maceo and Jace...but the biggest thing is making sure our seniors end on a high note...it's about getting back and playing with some heart, playing for each other, and playing for this program."

Heidelberg hits the road for University Heights next weekend. Kickoff with No. 9 John Carroll University is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.