The Opening Kick
For just the fourth time in history, the Franklin football team will suit up to play under the lights at Faught Stadium, when they take on the Division I FCS non-scholarship Butler Bulldogs on Saturday night, which is also the annual Alumni Day at Faught Stadium.
Last Time Out
Franklin hit the road for their 2017 season opener a week ago, heading south for a rematch of 2016's thrilling season opener against No. 19 Thomas More.
After falling behind early, the Grizzlies threw everything they had at the Saints to get back within striking distance late in the contest. But there would be no comeback this time around as Franklin ran out of time and Thomas More came away with a 47-37 win.
Chase Burton threw for 315 yards on 24 completions, tossing five touchdowns and one interception. Deontez Alexander was on the receiving end of three Burton TD passes and Tanner Wroblewski caught the other two for the Grizzlies.
A complete recap can be found on page 11 of the game notes.
The Bulldogs make their first trip to Faught Stadium since 2013 and are in search of their first win of the year as well. Butler opened their year on the road against Division I FCS powerhouse Illinois State, falling 45-0.
Now in his 12th season at the helm of the Bulldogs, head coach Jeff Voris and the Bulldogs have taken each of the last five meetings between the two programs. Last year, the Grizzlies and Bulldogs hooked up in Indianapolis with Butler taking home a 59-14 win. Franklin picked up their last win over the Bulldogs with a 31-28 road victory during the 2008 campaign.
Butler's offense is led by junior quarterback Will Marty and a pair of Preseason All-Pioneer Football League selections in running back Duvante Lane and wideout Pace Temple. Lane led the Bulldogs' ground attack a year ago, rushing for 706 yards and nine scores. Butler's ground game averaged 171.1 yards per game in 2016.
Defensively, the Bulldogs return last season's leading tackler in Ethan Brunhofer as well as defensive back Isaak Newhouse, both of which were named honorable mention All-PFL last year.
HCAC Player of the Week
Senior quarterback and two-time HCAC Offensive MVP Chase Burton collected his eighth career HCAC Offensive Player of the Week honor after his five-touchdown performance against a stingy Thomas More defense last week. It is the eighth career weekly award for the Griz' signal caller and the first since week five of the 2016 season.
Saturday night will be the first chance for Grizzly fans to welcome back 68 letter winners from a year ago to Faught Stadium. FC brings back eight starters back on offense and five back on the defense in 2017.
On offense, the Grizzlies feature a re-loaded lineup with Burton, wideouts Deontez Alexander, Lee Wroblewski, Tanner Wroblewski and Brad Bonomini and offensive linemen Samm Hayes, Landon Johnson and Paul Eisberg. Last year, the Grizzlies led D-III in passing touchdowns (42) and ranked third in passing yards per game (401.7).
Defensively, Franklin brings back five starters and will be relying on a slew of players to fill the holes, especially in the defensive backfield that returns just one starter in senior Ryan Conner. The defensive line lost all-conference defensive tackle Devante Ash to graduation and Nathan Adams, Zach Turner and John Finley will be tasked with anchoring the line. Jay McClain is the lone returning starter back with the team's linebacking corps.
Spreading the Wealth
Burton used his slew of weapons at receiver and out of the backfield to his advantage against the Saints. Six different players recorded at least one catch on the afternoon, led by six receptions from Alexander. The Grizzlies are no stranger to using all their weapons, as last year a whopping 19 players hauled in at least one pass.
Jacob Earl set a pair of career highs coming out of the backfield last week. Earl rushed for a personal-best 37 yards on five carries and hauled in five passes out for another 25 yards, surpassing his total number of catches from a year ago.
HCAC Play Looms
Saturday night's contest is the final non-conference tune-up for the Grizzlies as they step into conference play next week. Franklin has dominated league opponents since 2006. The Grizzlies are 78-5 against HCAC opponents over the last 10 years and open up conference play against Defiance next Saturday afternoon.
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 annual installment of the award.
Around the HCAC
All nine schools around the league are in action against out-of-conference opponents this week. It is the final non-conference game for each program with HCAC play set to begin next week. The rest of the league schedule is below:
Hanover at Maryville, 1 PM Trine at Bluffton, 1:30 PM
Defiance at Hope, 1:30 PM Earlham at Hiram, 3 PM
Manchester at Alma, 6 PM DePauw at Mt. St. Joseph, 6:30 PM
Anderson at Centre, 7 PM Milikin at Rose-Hulman, 7 PM
Follow the Action Live
Grizzly fans will be able to tune in to the game live on GrizTV with Andrew Smith assuming the play-by-play duties for all five home contests this year. Links to the video and to live stats can be found at franklingrizzlies.com. Follow the Grizzlies on Twitter @FCGrizAthletics for in-game updates and post-game coverage.