Homecoming Football vs. Tiffin

The rain was coming down in sheets and the wind was relentless on Sat­urday at Wickes Stadium in Uni­versity Center, Michigan, but the weather played right to the Hillsdale College football team’s strengths.
Hillsdale’s offense stuck to the running game and the defense com­mitted itself to stopping the run, as the Chargers blanked the Saginaw Valley Car­dinals 26 – 0 for their first road shutout in four years.
The Chargers have now won two games in a row to improve to 3 – 5 in the GLIAC and 3 – 6 overall.
“The weather was a huge factor. I can’t remember in 37 years of coaching where neither team absolutely could not throw it. It was like the ball was greased up,” head coach Keith Otterbein said. “There were some dif­ferent looking passes, so you elim­inate that part of it for both sides. I think probably as a football team in total — offense, defense, and special teams — we probably exe­cuted our plan to the best level that we have all year and I think we did a nice job of adapting to the weather.”
With both teams running the ball a majority of the time due to the weather, Hillsdale’s focus on stopping the run paid off. The Chargers held the Car­dinals to just 105 total yards of offense and six first downs.
“The weather helped us out a lot, because it’s almost impos­sible to throw in weather like that,” said sophomore line­backer Jay Rose, who recovered a fumble in the second quarter. “We knew if we could just stop Saginaw’s run then we’d win and we did that.”
Red­shirt freshman quar­terback Chance Stewart and a pair of Car­dinals quar­ter­backs com­bined to com­plete just 10 passes for 83 yards.
“On a dry day we would have mixed in a little bit more play-action pass, spread out, boot, that kind of stuff,” Otterbein said. “We had hoped that we could take a couple shots down field and the weather wasn’t letting us do that.”
Red­shirt freshman Joe Reverman tallied his second con­sec­utive 200-yard rushing per­for­mance with 224 yards and two touch­downs on 36 carries. Reverman has gained 500 yards in his last two games alone.
“It was so rainy, no team could com­plete a pass, so we were forced to run, which we like,” Reverman said. “Our offensive line has just been playing really well the last few games so I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Reverman, who has been thrust into the starting role due to injuries, has impressed Otterbein with his style of play.
“He’s a really hard worker, really knowl­edgeable, and very good in pass pro­tection for his body size,” Otterbein said. “He’s just a good instinctive football player. I don’t think there’s many guys rushing for 200 yards that also run down the field as a gunner on the punt team or run down the field as a bullet on the kickoff cov­erage team.”
Because Reverman’s offensive role has increased, Otterbein is trying to lessen Reverman’s other duties.
“He has been very special when he’s been touching the ball, so we’re trying to keep a balance with that, but also trying to play our best players and make us the best team we can be any snap.”
Reverman did not expect to see this many snaps in his first year.
“I don’t mind getting this many touches, but I def­i­nitely didn’t expect it coming into the year for sure,” Reverman said. “This expe­rience will def­i­nitely help me for next year. I think I’ll be more pre­pared and we have a lot of other guys coming back too so it’ll be big.”
The Chargers will hit the road again this weekend to face the Northwood Tim­ber­wolves on Sat­urday at 1 p.m. Northwood is the only team Hillsdale plays this year that has a grass field — a majority of teams play on turf — so the Chargers have been prac­ticing on the IM fields since Tuesday to prepare for the dif­ferent surface.
“Grass is dif­ferent so our guys have got to get used to grass,” Otterbein said. “It is dif­ferent, but we’re going to pretty much say, ‘We’re on grass and it’s not going to be an issue.’ The field con­di­tions cannot enter our mind.”
The Chargers are trying to make the playing surface a non-factor, but Northwood boasts arguably one of the best home-field advan­tages in the GLIAC. The Tim­ber­wolves are 4 – 4 in the GLIAC this season, but are 4 – 0 at home.
“They’ve played some good teams really tough so we cer­tainly have our hands full,” Otterbein said. “They’re a good home team, they play really hard, and they’ve got ath­letes.”
The Tim­ber­wolves run an option offense and have some tall ath­letic receivers, so unlike Sat­urday, the Chargers will have to keep both the running game and the passing game in check.
“There’s a lot that goes into making sure we have all phases of the option defended, so there will be a little bit more prepa­ration in that aspect,” Rose said. “We’ve just got to keep building off what we’ve been doing the past couple weeks and we should be good if we do that.”