FRANKLIN – The Franklin College football team looked to resume its dominance in league in play on Saturday afternoon when Defiance College came to Faught Stadium for the first game of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) schedule.
The Grizzlies (1-2, 1-0 HCAC) used the run game to control the clock and take a one-score lead into the break. That set up the trademark no-huddle offense that opened the second half with three straight touchdowns, overwhelming the Yellow Jackets (0-3, 0-1 HCAC) on their way to a 42-12 win on the team's annual Tribute to Service Day.
Leading the charge on the ground was senior Jordan Brown, who ripped through the Defiance defense for a career-high 121 yards on 17 carries. Brown found the end zone twice in the first half, taking advantage of a dominant performance by the FC offensive line to record his first career 100-yard game and multi-score game.
"We did things a little different early and our offensive line did a great job today," Brown said after the game. "They made my job easy with the holes they were opening up. This was a huge first step for us today to get where we want to be. The captains met earlier this week and we told everyone leading into this game that we want to focus on going 1-0 every week. It was a great performance by everyone and the result was a nice win."
"We want to get out to a great start every game but it took a bit for us to get there today," Head coach Mike Leonard added. "We slowed things down a bit in the first half and ran the ball like we wanted to. At the break, we rallied the troops and sped things up. Credit to our guys for going out and executing our game plan today."
After a scoreless first quarter, the Grizzlies got on the board first less than two minutes into the second frame. Brown took his 10th touch of the day eight yards into the end zone, capping off a 10-play Franklin drive.
Defiance answered with a 13-play, 72-yard scoring drive of their own to cut the lead to 7-6 with 7:58 left in the first half. But 13 seconds later, the Grizzlies hit pay dirt again when Chase Burton connected with Lee Wroblewski for a 52-yard score that made it 14-6.
That score would hold going into the half, but not much longer afterwards. Franklin found the end zone on each of their first three drives of the second half to take command of the game. Brown scored from a yard out just 1:53 into the second half. Tanner Wroblewski added a 6-yard TD catch and Jacob Earl's first career score came from two yards out to make it 35-6 with 6:21 left in the third.
Franklin's defense held the Yellow Jackets in check for most of the second half. Tahjon McKinney-Cole added the cherry on top with his first career TD late in the game, hauling in a 91-yard score from Braden Smith.
Franklin racked up a season-high 578 yards on offense as opposed to 369 for the Yellow Jackets. Burton finished 13-for-23 for 227 yards, a pair of scores and one interception on the day. Smith, who made his first career start Saturday afternoon, went 8-for-13 for 142 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Lee and Tanner Wroblewski had four catches each to lead the Grizzlies, picking up 65 and 42 yards though the air, respectively.
On defense, Austin Fleming came just short of his third straight double-digit tackle game but still led the team with nine stops. Jay McClain had a team-leading six solo tackles while Ryan Conner made six stops and picked off his first pass of the year.
Conference play rolls on for the Grizzlies next Saturday (Sept. 23), when Franklin hits the road for a pivotal game against Bluffton University. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. eastern time.