Special to the Tribune-Star
NORTH MANCHESTER —
Rose-Hulman improved to 2-0 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference football action with a come-from-behind 26-20 victory at Manchester College on Saturday.
Rose-Hulman rallied from a 14-0 first-half deficit to top the Spartans on their field and earn their second consecutive league victory. The Fightin’ Engineers rallied from a two touchdown deficit to win for the first time since a 2007 victory over North Park University.
Sophomore Kyle Kovach led the Rose-Hulman offense with his third consecutive 100-yard rushing performance. Kovach gained 108 yards on 34 carries with two touchdowns in the effort.
Junior Mitch Snyder of Casey, Ill., finished 16 of 23 for 143 yards and one touchdown through the air to balance Rose-Hulman's offensive attack. Kovach had six receptions for 49 yards, with freshman Dominic Sena adding 51 yards on four catches.
Defensively, senior Matt Green and senior Bobby Short of Martinsville, Ill., made big plays with interceptions to pace the Engineers.
Junior Jordan Martin led the team with nine tackles. Senior Brad D'Agnillo and sophomore Marcus Washington added seven stops each.
On the special teams front, senior Nick Schneider tied Rose-Hulman's school record with 25 field goals with successful kicks from 42 and 22 yards out. Schneider has tied the mark set by Vern Vannostran (1982-85).
Justin Minnich led the Manchester offense with 219 yards of total offense from the quarterback position, but the Fightin' Engineers held the Spartans to just 302 yards of total offense. Minnich finished 11-24 for 114 yards and also rushed for 105 yards on 12 carries.
Manchester relied on two early touchdown runs by Corey Nelson to gain a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Nelson scored from five yards out to cap a 13-play, 75-yard drive in the first quarter, then scored from eight yards out on the first play of the second quarter.
Rose-Hulman scored twice to move within 14-9 at halftime. Snyder connected with junior Parris Gray from five yards out to move the Engineers within 14-6 and cap a 10-play, 72-yard march.
Schneider then booted a 42-yard field goal to tie his career long and bring Rose-Hulman within 14-9 at the half.
In the third quarter, Rose-Hulman marched 65 yards in 13 plays to gain a 16-14 lead. Kovach scored from five yards out, in a drive that featured a key third down pass from Snyder to Kovach for 18 yards which placed the ball in the red zone.
Manchester answered on its next drive to claim a 20-16 lead on a one-yard run by Nelson. The Spartans two-point conversion attempt failed, and Manchester led 20-16 with 8:00 left in the third quarter.
Rose-Hulman would hold Manchester without a point for the rest of the game and score twice to secure the win. Schneider brought the Engineers within 20-19 on a 22-yard field goal to cap an 11-play drive.
The final scoring drive covered 59 yards in 10 plays and put Rose-Hulman in the lead 26-20 with 10:52 left in the contest. The Engineers converted two third downs on the drive, including an eight-yard run by Snyder on third-and-seven. Kovach capped the march with a three-yard run that followed a 20-yard strike from Snyder to Sena.
Manchester's best chance to score came on the next drive, when the Spartans reached the Rose-Hulman 34-yard line. Green thwarted the drive with an interception at the Engineer 20-yard line with eight minutes left.
Rose-Hulman forced a three-and-out on Manchester's next drive, then secured one first down to run the clock to 2:17 for the final Spartan possession, after sophomore Eric Schaible booted a punt to the Manchester four-yard line.
After converting one first down, Rose-Hulman forced Minnich into three straight incompletions, including a fourth down pass under pressure to secure the victory.
Rose-Hulman improved to 2-0 in HCAC play and 2-2 overall with the win, while Manchester dropped to 2-2 and 1-1 in league matchups with the loss. The Fightin' Engineers join Franklin as the only unbeaten teams in league play, when the two squads collide next Saturday at 1:30 at Phil Brown Field.