Senior quarterback Chance Stewart became the first player in school history to have two 400-yard passing performances in a career in the Hillsdale College Chargers’ 45 – 35 win on Saturday against the Malone University Pioneers in Canton, Ohio.
Stewart completed 30 of 43 passes for 450 yards and four touchdowns in the victory. He already holds the Chargers’ record for most passing yards in a game, 485, set last season against the University of Indianapolis on Sept. 23, 2017.
“Receivers made the plays, and we pushed the ball down the field more than we had in previous games based on film study and what we thought we were going to get,” Stewart said. “When we can do that, it makes our offense so much better.”
Stewart completed 10 passes that went for 20 or more yards, and distributed the ball to eight different receivers.
“That’s kind of what we’ve been trying to do all year,” head coach Keith Otterbein said. “Taking some shots on first down, what allows you to do that is being efficient on second down. I think with the weapons we have on offense, that’s something we’ve got to do.”
Senior wide receiver Trey Brock caught nine passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns, and sophomore wide receiver K.J. Maloney caught seven passes for 143 yards, making them the first Chargers duo in eight seasons to each eclipse 100 yards receiving in a single game.
“We complement each other in that defenses can’t just focus on one or the other,” Brock said. “They have to worry about the whole receiving corps, not just one of us.”
Maloney and Brock rank third and fourth, respectively, in the G-MAC in receiving yards this year, and both average more than 90 yards receiving per game. That feat is more impressive considering Brock caught just one pass in the season’s first two games because of a lingering injury.
“As you look at our offense, to try to say they’re going to take away Trey Brock, good luck, because you’ve got K.J. Maloney and [senior wide receiver] Austin Sandusky on the other side,” Otterbein said. “Having [Brock] back gets the defense to have to spread out and not gang up on one guy in the pass defense.”
Saturday’s aerial attack was the result of a game plan to stretch the field more with deep balls and big plays, and Hillsdale executed. Through the first quarter, Brock already had 118 yards receiving and two touchdowns, a 5-yard score and a 48-yard strike.
Both teams scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, and the Chargers led 24 – 21 at halftime thanks to a 32-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Joe Philipp and a 33-yard touchdown from Stewart to Maloney.
In the third quarter, Brock found the end zone for a third time on a 2-yard touchdown reception, and junior running back David Graham rushed for a 5-yard touchdown to give Hillsdale a 10-point advantage. Early in the fourth quarter, junior running back Casey O’Brien’s 2-yard touchdown rush opened up a three possession lead for the Chargers.
The Pioneers lingered with an interception of Stewart in the red zone and a fourth-down stop, but the Chargers’ defense tightened late and held Malone scoreless on its final three possessions. Junior linebacker Nate Jones’s interception late in the quarter all but sealed the win for Hillsdale.
“He happened to throw it right to me in the chest, so I had to make sure I caught that one,” Jones said. “It was just a matter of feeling out what they had done before and getting a feel for where the quarterback wanted to go with his eyes, and I happened to make a break on the ball.”
Despite allowing 35 points, the Chargers’ defense allowed just 196 yards through the air. The pass coverage was assisted by a consistent pass rush, led by sophomore defensive lineman Schuyler Snell’s 2.5 sacks. Snell and sophomore defensive lineman Zach VanValkenburg both have 4.5 sacks this season, sharing the conference lead.
“Guys like Zach VanValkenburg and Schuyler Snell are getting pressure with as little as three or four-man rushes, which really helps our pass defense if they can send four guys to the quarterback and get the job done,” Jones said. “It’s been the defensive linemen getting better pass rush moves and getting quicker off the ball that have really helped our defense.”
Hillsdale’s 45 points and 566 yards of total offense were both season-highs. The Chargers rank third in the conference in total scoring and total yards, behind only Ohio Dominican University, whom they defeated on Sept. 15, and their opponent this Saturday, the University of Findlay.
Findlay defeated Hillsdale last season, 31 – 13. This year, the Chargers go on the road to take on the Oilers. Hillsdale is one of two teams remaining in the G-MAC without a conference loss. Findlay lost to Ohio Dominican earlier this season. The stakes are high, as ODU and Findlay were the only two schools to finish ahead of Hillsdale in the preseason conference rankings.
“Everyone really likes to overhype this game. We haven’t beat them in the last three attempts. In the grand scheme of things, it’s just another game for us,” Stewart said. “We’ve been successful with how we’ve approached each game. It’ll be fun. It’ll be exciting. We control our destiny from here on out. This is just the next opponent — a really good opponent — but we’re a really good football team too.”
Kickoff on Saturday in Findlay, Ohio is at 3 p.m.