For a moment, it all was within reach.
Tiffin University had scrambled back from a 21-0 third-quarter deficit, and in the final seconds of the quarter trailed Northwood by just seven.
And the Dragons were threatening to get even, holding the ball on the Timberwolves' 29.
And then, within a matter of minutes, it was all gone.
Three plays stood out in what turned into a 35-14 Northwood win.
n Trailing by a touchdown and facing a third-and 10 at the Northwood 28, TU (1-3, 0-3 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) quarterback James Capello found tight end Mark Rogers at about the 24. As he neared the first down marker, Rogers fumbled the ball and the Timberwolves' Kyle Fikki recovered at the 17.
n Northwood, which had been effectively shut down by the Dragons following a close to hour-and-a-half weather delay, moved the ball to its own 42. On first down, quarterback Aaron Shavers dropped back and threw down the right side to Carrington Thompson, who appeared to be about a zip code away from any defender. Thompson caught the ball at about the 15 and could walk in for the score.
"That was a double-move [by Thompson]," Tiffin coach Gary Goff said about why the receiver was so why open.
n On the ensuing kickoff, the Timberwolves popped up the kick to about the Dragons 25. TU's Marcus Beaurem let the ball drop in front of him, and never seemed to have possession before Northwood defenders pounced on the ball with 13:20 left in the game.
"Those guys know you cannot let the ball drop on kickoffs," Goff said. "For some reason, we did."
That led to another Shavers' touchdown pass, as he ran around in the pocket before finding Eric Williams from 7 yards out.
In less than three minutes of game time, Tiffin went from challenging to tie to looking at a 21-point deficit.
"We turned the ball over, and it just deflated us," Goff said.
Overall, the Dragons fumbled the ball five times, losing three. In addition, Capello was intercepted early in the third quarter by Ryan Whittum, who returned the ball 41 yards for a touchdown.
"You can't overcome turnovers," Goff said. "You can't. It's plain and simple. We've got to play better than that. We've got to play better than that; we've got to coach better than that."
After Northwood had taken the lead on a touchdown run and a touchdown pass to Jordan Jonker, the Timberwolves went into the half with a 14-0 lead. Play was stopped just before the first offensive play of the second half when lightning was spotted. After about 90 minutes of lightning, thunder, a hail storm and plenty of rain, the contest resumed. Northwood appeared to be in control following Whittum's pick-six, but TU quickly responded.
First a halfback option pass by Tyler Jones to Pedro Correa went for a 38-yard score, and barely two minutes later, TU linebacker Logan Snell - who has had a knack for the big play this season and who had already intercepted Shavers - blocked a punt and returned it 40 yards to the end zone.
But the score came with a price. Snell appeared to injure himself as he was returning the block, and collapsed in the end zone.
Goff said it appeared to be a hamstring injury. Snell eventually limped off the field.
"We'll see what (the medical staff will) say about that," Goff said. "He's a great player. We need him."
For Northwood (4-0, 3-0), Cameron Jackson ran for 107 yards on 25 carries. Its defense limited TU to just 251 total yards on offense.
"We're 4-0, which is a good thing," said Northwood coach Mike Sullivan. "But there are so many areas to improve on as a team. We've learned a big lesson here, that's good. We have to come out and fight in all phases, at all times out here."