The Hillsdale College Chargers evened their record to 2 – 2 this season on Saturday with a commanding 30 – 0 shutout against the Walsh University Cavaliers at Frank “Muddy” Waters Stadium. The win also puts Hillsdale at 2 – 0 in the G‑MAC. Only Tiffin University (3 – 1, 2 – 0) is also unbeaten against conference opponents.
The Chargers’ defense limited the Cavaliers to just 93 yards of offense and five first downs. Walsh’s offense advanced the ball past midfield just three times, and the deepest it got into Hillsdale’s territory was the 43-yard line. Head coach Keith Otterbein said the defense’s commitment to its game plan led to the stellar group performance.
“It’s hard to get a shutout. We felt like we were in control and moving around really well and putting pressure on the quarterback,” Otterbein said. “We were real comfortable with our gameplan. Guys were just trusting their instincts and trusting the game plan. That goes back to having a really good week of practice.”
The defensive unit made four tackles for loss, five pass breakups, seven quarterback hits, and forced one turnover. Eight players made at least three tackles.
“We did a nice job of maintaining our rush lanes and collapsing the pocket on [the quarterback],” Otterbein said. “In the secondary we were just pinning our ears back and breaking on some balls, and that makes a difference. They didn’t challenge us deep very often.”
On offense, the Chargers’ first two drives ended in a punt and an interception thrown. But on its third drive, the offense moved the ball 49 yards on ten plays for a touchdown to get Hillsdale on the board early in the second quarter. The Chargers converted three third downs on the drive, and possessed the ball for more than five minutes.
Senior running back David Graham rushed the ball in from two yards out for the score, his fourth touchdown of the season. Graham finished the game with 65 yards rushing on 20 carries.
Hillsdale rushed for 133 yards total, and junior wide receiver Alex Giampietro scored on a 16-yard end-around run for the Chargers’ second touchdown of the game near the end of the third quarter.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Luke Keller completed 12 of 28 passes for 191 yards. He connected with junior wide receiver K.J. Maloney for a 56-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to extend the Chargers’ lead to 26.
Maloney, who missed the first game of the season after sustaining an injury on the first play from scrimmage, has caught 14 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns in the previous three weeks. He caught five passes for 96 yards on Saturday.
“We’ve got a lot of good wide receivers. They’re all fresh when we come in,” Keller said. “They all have their different style and they’re all unique and that makes it more challenging for defensive backs to guard them.”
Eight different Chargers caught passes in the win. Through four collegiate games, Keller has completed 43 percent of his passes and thrown five touchdowns and six interceptions.
“I’ve always been comfortable with the offense, but the game has kind of slowed down the past weeks,” Keller said. “I know what I’m doing out there, but it’s just slowed down in the game. I’ve been confident these past few weeks and let the game come to me.”
In special teams, senior kicker Bryce Sealock, who has been filling in for junior Joe Philipp while he recovers from injury, went 3 for 3 on field goal attempts on Saturday. He nailed field goals of 25, 34, and 31 yards for his first three field goals of the season. He also went 3 for 3 on extra point attempts, and has made 12 of 13 extra points this season.
“He’s done a good job and his demeanor has changed,” Otterbein said. “He was a little nervous early putting pressure on himself and I think he’s become a little more comfortable with that. As you gain experience the game slows down and you can do your job.”
The Chargers will take a two-week hiatus from conference play beginning Saturday, as they host Concord University (0 – 4) at 1 p.m. Concord is a member of the Mountain East Conference, which former G‑MAC school Davis & Elkins College moved to this season. Notre Dame College, which defeated Hillsdale in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs last November, is also a member of the MEC.
Otterbein said the Chargers’ preparation for a non-conference team they normally don’t play wouldn’t be any different than for a G‑MAC team.
“We generally would watch all of our opponents the same way,” Otterbein said. “The fact they’re a new team creates a different environment for us. It really puts a premium on us defensively being assignment sound and taking care of our individual jobs and responsibilities.”
Next weekend, the Chargers travel to Midland, Michigan to play the Northwood University Timberwolves (0 – 4). The Timberwolves are members of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which the Chargers were members of from 1975 – 1989 and 1999- 2017. Northwood lost to G‑MAC teams Tiffin University and the University of Findlay in its first two games of the season by a combined 13 points.
The Chargers resume conference play on Oct. 19.