The Opening Kick
Following a week off, the Franklin College football team resumes play on Saturday afternoon, traveling to Cook Stadium for a showdown with Rose-Hulman in a meeting of the last two unbeaten teams in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) play.
Last Time Out
The Grizzlies went into their bye week winners of four straight games following a 56-26 win over Earlham two weeks ago. The Grizzlies got off to a fast start and put the game away with four second quarter touchdowns that stretched their lead to 42-12 at the half.
The Grizzlies recorded a season-high 180 yards on the ground, with a bulk of those coming from sophomore Jacob Earl. Earl finished with a career-best 123 yards on 13 carries and set a program record with four rushing touchdowns on the day.
Chase Burton continued his strong season, going 21-for-28 for 254 yards and three scores through the air. Deontez Alexander hauled in a pair of TD passes and Tanner Wroblewski caught a season-high nine passes for 79 yards as Franklin improved to 8-0 all-time against the Quakers.
A complete recap is available on page 12 of the game notes.
Jeff Sokol is in his seventh year at the helm of the Fightin' Engineer program, and he has his team unbeaten in five conference games heading into Saturday. Last week, the Engineers cruised to a 44-13 win over Manchester, their ninth consecutive HCAC win dating back to last year.
The Grizzlies are led by freshman quarterback Andrew Dion, who has completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 1,344 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. Dion's go-to targets have been a pair of seniors in Raymond Burtnick and Zack Murphy. Burtnick has 34 catches for 495 yards and a nation-high 12 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Murphy has 28 grabs for a team-high 511 yards and five scores.
The Engineers boast a solid passing game with a strong running attack that averages over 200 yards per game. Garrett Wight leads the team with 551 yards on the ground, while senior Stanley Hogan has ammassed 416 yards rushing and scored five times.
But the strength of the Engineers is on the defensive side of the ball, where the Engineers at holding teams to just 21.1 points to game and lead D-III with 38 sacks on the year. Junior defensive lineman Mike Riley has a nation-high 15.5 sacks while senior linebacker Kaelen Garner has 7.5. The secondary is anchored by 2017 pre-season All-American Alec Thompson, whose three interceptions leads the squad.
Grizzlies and Engineers All-Time
The series between the Grizzlies and Engineers dates all the way back to 1902. Franklin leads the all-time series 40-24-2, but in the most recent meeting, the Engineers pulled off a 23-22 upset of then-No. 14 ranked Franklin at Faught Stadium. That win proved to be the tie-breaker that clinched the Engineers' first ever playoff berth a season ago.
The Class of the Conference
Franklin resumes league play on Saturday and looks to continue their dominance within in the league. Picked as the pre-season favorites by HCAC coaches, the Grizzlies have held court in league play over the last seven years, winning 60 of their last 62 conference games dating back to 2009.
The Grizzlies haven't been afraid to stretch defenses first six games of the year, with 15 of the team's 26 touchdown passes encompassing 25 yards or more. Franklin has six TD passes going for at least 50 yards, with the longest a 91-yard hook-up between Braden Smith and Tahjon McKinney-Cole against Defiance back in week three. Deontez Alexander has been the team's go-to deep threat, hauling in seven of his 10 scores from beyond 25 yards out.
Senior signal caller Chase Burton is just 342 passing yards away from becoming the second player in program history to record 10,000 passing yards. Additionally, Burton is creeping up on a pair of program passing records currently held by former FC standout Jonny West. Burton is four touchdown passes away from tying the program's record for TD passes with 105, and he's just 996 yards away from breaking West's passing yards record of 10,653.
Spreading the Wealth
The always potent Franklin passing attack has kept opponents off-balance all year. Franklin quarterbacks Burton and Smith have found 16 different players at least once this year and the result has been an aerial attack averaging nearly 400 yards per game through the air and a team passing efficiency rating of 185.5, the top marks in the HCAC in each category.
Over the last three years, receivers Lee and Tanner Wroblewski have made life tough for opposing defensive backs during their time at Franklin. The brothers have not only teamed with Alexander to form one of the nation's most dangerous receiving trios, but they have each scored a touchdown each in seven games dating back to 2015. The Grizzlies are unbeaten this year when it happens and 6-1 all-time.
Around the HCAC
First place is on the line when the Grizzlies and Engineers battle on Saturday afternoon. In addition, Bluffton travels to Manchester, Mount St. Joseph is at Anderson and Hanover heads to Earlham. Defiance is the lone institution on a bye this week.
Follow the Action Live
Grizzly fans will be able to follow the action live two different ways on Saturday. Live video and stats will be provided by the host institution and links to each can be found at the top of the page. Follow the Grizzlies on Twitter @FCGrizAthletics for in-game updates and post-game coverage.