Pipkin, Dragons soar over Hillsdale

Both teams had to plug in new starters due to injuries, but Tiffin responded better – in all facets of the game.

Antonio Pipkin ran for more 100 yards and threw for nearly 200 more – completing passes to eight receivers, many of whom were pushed into starting roles due to injuries – while the defense got a score of its own and bottled up Hillsdale’s offense en route to a 37-20 homecoming win.

“Couldn’t be happier. It was a big-time win for us,” TU coach Gary Goff said.

“Every game is crucial. This game this early in the season was a big, crucial game for us,” he said. “You don’t come away with a win here and you’re looking down the barrel at 1-2 and you’re still going through the heart of the [Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference].”

The end of the second period and the entire third quarter helped make sure the Dragons (2-1, 1-1 GLIAC) didn’t have to worry about that.

Tiffin capped a 13-play, 71-yard march with Pipkin’s 2-yard TD toss to JaQuan Hardy with 2 seconds left in the first half to enter the break with a 17-14 lead.

Then the Dragons dominated the third quarter.

First they turned in two methodical, clock-eating scoring drives.

Both ended on 2-yard plunges by Kyle Brunson and Hardy, with the first capping a 75-yard march and the second finishing off a 69-yard drive. Together, the drives consumed 11:59 of the clock.

Meanwhile, Tiffin held the Chargers to just 44 yards of offense in the quarter.

And even though 43 of those yards came near the end of the third period to set up a score early in the fourth, Tiffin still led 30-20 after Steven Ficyk found Timmy Mills with a 35-yard TD pass on the first play of the final period.

But Hillsdale (2-1, 1-1) couldn’t close the gap any further en route to their first loss.

A penalty on the Chargers wiped out a two-point conversion pass, and Steven Mette then missed a 35-yard PAT kick.

Hillsdale’s next drive then fizzled out when Mette missed a 33-yard field goal attempt, and the Chargers’ next possession turned into a Tiffin score.

Ficyk, pushed into his own starting role because of a fractured sternum suffered by Chance Stewart in the season-opener, hit Zach Steinbrunner with what would have been a first-down pass at the TU 35.

However, Steinbrunner fumbled while being tackled by Delan Wynn, who turned the play into a 65-yard scoop-and-score with 5:49 to play, adding a flying somersault in the end zone after the TD.

That was one of eight penalties the Dragons (2-1, 1-1 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) suffered Saturday, but it was still three fewer than they had in last week’s win against Davenport.

“I was very happy with the way we played. Coming off last week, I was very upset about the penalties and everything, and we cut those way back,” TU coach Gary Goff said. “We still had a few bonehead penalties. That fumble recovery by Delan Wynn, he’s a true freshman, his first game right here. Great play, but I told him, ‘Hey, if you ever flip in the end zone again, you’re going to meet me after practice.’

“But overall, very, very pleased. It was a team win. Defense played extremely well. Hillsdale has been a pass-run option team for the early part of the season, and they’ve been unstoppable. We saw there were plays to be made on both sides of the ball. Very proud of our offensive line and then Pipkin and the way he played.”

Pipkin ran for 107 yards and went 22 for 34 through the air for 190 yards, helping set up TU touchdowns all day long.

“They’re a good football team, they played hard today, and they’re fast, and that’s really the difference. (A)nd it’s not just one guy, they’ve got other guys,” Hillsdale coach Keith Otterbein said. “He can hand it off to some pretty good guys, he can throw it to some pretty good guys, so it’s not a one-man show, although he’s pretty pivotal in what they’re doing.”

Still, it was a back-and-forth first half.

Hillsdale struck first on Joe Reverman’s 8-yard TD run, but the Dragons countered with Jared Friszman’s 43-yard field and Kyle Brunson’s 1-yard scoring dive for a 10-7 lead.

The Chargers responded in the second quarter.

Third-string QB David Ritchie entered the game when Ficyk had to leave for one play after losing his helmet, and promptly threw a 15-yard scoring strike to Austin Sandusky.

Mette’s ensuing PAT boot put the Chargers up 14-10 with 3:32 left in the first half, but TU answered to retake the lead, with Pipkin capping the drive with the short scoring toss to Hardy just before halftime.

Then came the third quarter.

“They kept the ball. They did a little keepaway,” Otterbein said. “Their first drive was over five minutes, and we didn’t convert some third downs at a time when you’ve got to recapture some momentum. Their touchdown before halftime gave them some momentum; we needed to come out, get a stop. Things didn’t work out the way that we necessarily wanted them to.

“It was a lot of keepaway, and the third quarter was really when the game separated,” he said.

Nordan Nobles caught five passes for 54 yards and Charles Holland reeled in four passes for 47 yards for TU. Brunson ran 14 times for 65 yards and Hardy (7-52) and Jerry Brown (6-47) combined for another 13 rushes for 99 yards.

Ficyk went 18 for 29 throwing for 259 yards for Hillsdale, but his fumble set up TU’s first touchdown.

Trey Brock caught six passes for 136 yards, and Reverman ran 19 times for 77 yards.