In a record-setting classic last Saturday, the Hillsdale Chargers lost 45 – 38 to the No. 14 University of Indianapolis Greyhounds on the road, dropping to 2 – 2 this season.
The Greyhounds remain undefeated and improved to No. 10 in the NCAA’s Division II football rankings after the victory. Indianapolis also narrowed the difference in the all-time series against Hillsdale to one game. The Chargers are now 16 – 15 in head-to-head matchups against the Greyhounds.
Junior quarterback Chance Stewart completed 31 of 47 passes for 485 yards, surpassing the school’s previous single-game record of 426 passing yards set by Mark Nicolet in 2007 and matched by Mark LaPrairie in 2014.
“Any time you’re able to set a record on a football team with such great tradition like Hillsdale, it’s always an honor,” Stewart said. “Lots of amazing efforts went into that game and just huge performances by everyone on the offensive side to help get all those yards.”
302 of those yards found the hands of junior wide receiver Trey Brock, on 12 receptions. That output also eclipsed a Chargers’ single-game record, previously held by John Haley, who racked up 268 receiving yards in a game in 2014.
Through the first three games of the season, Brock had one touchdown and 220 receiving yards. Those are by no means shabby numbers for a wide receiver, but the 2016 All-American knew he was capable of more.
“It meant a lot for me, because I struggled a bit in the first three games,” Brock said of his two-touchdown, 302-yard performance against Indianapolis. “It gave me a lot of confidence and set the bar high for me going into the second half of the season.”
Brock’s historic performance also earned him the G‑MAC’s offensive Player of the Week award.
Collectively, Hillsdale piled up 650 total yards of offense, another single-game record in the team’s 125-year history. The 2014 team previously held the record for total offense in a game, accumulating 611 yards on Sept. 13 of that year.
“That’s what we’re capable of,” sophomore running back David Graham said of the offense’s high-octane attack. “Even more so, we still made some mistakes while doing that well offensively. We can be really good on both sides of the ball.”
The Greyhounds bolted out of the gates, scoring on their first five possessions of the game to build a 23 – 0 lead midway through the second quarter.
A 60-yard heave from Stewart to Brock got Hillsdale on the board in the second quarter. On the Greyhounds’ ensuing possession, senior defensive lineman Matt Hall forced and recovered a fumble at Indy’s 23-yard line. The takeaway set up Graham’s first of two touchdown rushes to bring the score to 23 – 14.
The Chargers’ defense forced its first three-and-out of the game, and the offense needed only one play to score a touchdown on its third consecutive possession.
Stewart again found Brock, this time for an 82-yard strike.
“Our offense seemed to take more shots [down the field] in the second quarter,” Brock said. “Chance did a great job trusting his receivers to make plays.”
The 82-yard reception was the longest of Brock’s collegiate career.
The Greyhounds scored a touchdown on a deep pass of their own before the end of the half, increasing their lead to 30 – 21 at the break. Junior safety Wyatt Batdorff said surrendering big plays hurt Hillsdale’s defense in the first half.
“We would make three great plays and give up a big play, and that kills your momentum,” he said. “As soon as the defense started making a couple of plays and the offense started scoring is when we really thought we had a good chance to battle with [Indianapolis].”
Batdorff led the Chargers with nine total tackles in the game, and leads the team with 36 total tackles this season. He credits the defensive unit as a whole for his success this year.
“Everyone is doing their job,” he said. “Everyone is getting their assignments and I’m just there to make the plays I need to make.”
On Hillsdale’s second play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Graham broke away from the Indianapolis defense for a 74-yard touchdown run. He’s reached the end zone in all four games this season, and has six touchdowns to begin the year.
“The end zone is right there, and you’ve got to get in,” Graham said of his knack for scoring touchdowns. “The other guys feel that way, too — they’re all hungry to get in the end zone. We just want to score whatever way we can.”
The Chargers took a 31 – 30 lead in the third quarter, thanks to a field goal from redshirt freshman kicker Joe Philipp.
A 74-yard kickoff return by the Greyhounds set up a touchdown that handed the lead back to Indianapolis.
In the fourth quarter, Stewart’s third rushing touchdown of the season tied the game at 38.
The Chargers’ defense continued its season-long fourth-quarter dominance, allowing just three first downs in the final quarter. Hillsdale’s offense had more than one opportunity to take the lead late in the game, but two interceptions doomed the Chargers’ chances at completing what would have been a remarkable comeback.
With less than seven minutes remaining, Stewart led Hillsdale into the Greyhounds’ red zone. On second down from the 13-yard line, he fired a pass that bounced off the hands of senior wide receiver Timmy Mills. The ball ricocheted to an Indianapolis defender, who returned the interception 93 yards for the game-deciding score.
“That was a bad break,” head coach Keith Otterbein said. “We had been driving the ball, and knowing what I know now I would have been more conservative and run the ball. We probably could have got the clock down a bit more.”
The defensive touchdown made it 45 – 38, and the Chargers’ last-ditch attempt at tying the game was foiled when the Greyhounds jumped a route to intercept Stewart for a third time in the game.
Despite the disappointment of a second consecutive loss, the Chargers said they displayed their tenacity by coming back from a 23-point deficit to play down to the wire against a nationally ranked opponent.
“It shows other teams that we’re not going away,” sophomore linebacker Dan Shanley said. “No matter what we get thrown at us, we’re not going to roll over. That’s just not what we do.”
Shanley finished the game with six total tackles, one tackle for loss, and a pass broken up.
“They’re tough kids. Mentally and physically tough,” Otterbein said of his team. “We were knocked on our heels early, but you just play the next play. I’m really proud of them for that.”
All four of Hillsdale’s games this season have been decided in the fourth quarter, and the margin in all four games has been one score.
“We could easily be 0 – 4 or 4 – 0 right now,” Batdorff said. “It’s a good test so that we know how to compete in a fourth quarter.”
The Chargers are back in action this weekend for Homecoming, when they open conference play against Kentucky Wesleyan College.
“I love Homecoming,” Batdorff said. “I think it’s a great atmosphere to play in. The team as a whole is really excited to get the new conference started.”
Shanley echoed the excitement for the weekend ahead.
“We’ve kind of got a chip on our shoulder from the last two games,” he said. “Homecoming is a big game for us, so we’re playing with an added edge. It should be an exciting game.”