TERRE HAUTE —
Rose-Hulman isn’t in a hurry for its 2012 college football season to be over. Its offense is just in a hurry all the time.
The quick-striking Engineers had Saturday’s Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference game against visiting Anderson virtually decided before the first quarter was over at Phil Brown Field, eventually settling for a 42-8 win in which probably every healthy Engineer — unfortunately, that’s not as long a list as it should be — got at least some playing time.
Freshman Aaron Abbott, a little more of an offensive focus than usual because of a scarcity at his position, put his name in the Rose-Hulman record book with four touchdown receptions, tying a school record held by Hall of Fame Ed Huonder, and he did so in less than three quarters.
The Engineers never did need much time to score, however. They had a 14-3 lead early in the first quarter after their offense had been on the field only 45 seconds, and two more of their touchdown drives were quicker than that.
“That’s always what we try to do,” Rose-Hulman coach Jeff Sokol said afterward when asked about his team’s Oregon-like pace. “We wanted to try to tire [Anderson’s] defense out … try to get an advantage by that.”
“We have a lot of quick plays,” Abbott agreed. “We try to catch [the other team] off-guard. We get the passes out quick and there are a lot of lead blockers … I had a lot of open air out there today.”
The Rose defense actually scored first. Anderson’s first three offensive plays were two incomplete passes and a sack — quarterback Colton Priser in serious jeopardy on all three — followed by a punt from the 11-yard line that was blocked by Shane Boschert and recovered in the end zone by Greg Lee.
The visiting Ravens connected on a desperation pass that enabled them to manage a field goal on their second possession, but Lee’s 35-yard kickoff return and a halfback pass by Kyle Kovach set up Abbott’s first touchdown — a 14-yarder from Mitch Snyder — 45 seconds later.
When the Ravens fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Engineers were in position again, although it took them a whopping 2:47 to get the 28 yards to the end zone. Two penalties (of Rose’s 15 for the day) delayed the score — one of them wiping out a touchdown run by Abbott — but Abbott got himself wide-open for a 27-yard strike from Snyder on a fourth-down play. After nine minutes the score was 21-3.
Rose bogged down for awhile after that, but did manage a 57-yard, 38-second drive in the final minute of the first half, scoring on a 1-yard run by Kovach, then a 58-yard, 44-second drive after the second-half kickoff.
Abbott got that touchdown, eluding a couple of tacklers along the way, and tied Huonder’s record with a 19-yard catch and run later in the quarter.
“That’s awesome,” Abbott said when informed he’d tied a school record. “This is an experience … I’ve never had anything like this [in college].”
Abbott was probably targeted more than usual because his classmate Jacob Dye — are there two more promising freshman wideouts in all of NCAA Division III? — was one of the sidelined Engineers. In addition to the touchdowns he had 10 receptions for 166 yards, ran three times for 21 yards and had a 51-yard kickoff return. Eluding tacklers is something he’s used to, Sokol indicated.
“He’s one of our really good young players,” the coach said. “We challenged him [in Dye’s absence], asked him to step up and make plays, and he responded.
“He was a running back in high school, and he might still be one here,” Sokol added, “but he’s doing such a good job at receiver, it’ll be tough to move him.”
The Rose-Hulman defense was playing fast on Saturday too, by the way. With sophomore linebacker Grant DePalma a constant presence in the Anderson backfield, the visitors never got time for a consistent passing attack and got most of their rushing yards in the fourth quarter, with many new Engineers on the field.
“We had a good game plan,” said DePalma, who finished with eight tackles, two sacks, three other tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry that caused Priser to leave the game. “I was just being opportunistic at times, and finding the quarterback.
“No touchdowns, so it was a great game [for the defense],” he added. “I wish those field goals weren’t up there, but I’m absolutely happy.”
The Engineers as a whole are happy about the way their season is ending, but no doubt wish there were a couple of earlier games they could play over.
“We feel we’re the second-best team in the conference. We had a one-point loss, two overtime losses, one game where we blew a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter,” Sokol said ruefully. “But from where we were at, if we finish with three wins [the Engineers will be favored in their season finale next week with Earlham] it would be huge, and leave us feeling good about where we’re at.”
“We’re on the uprise,” said DePalma. “We only have a couple of seniors on defense, and we obviously did well today.”
“We can’t be complacent,” added Abbott, “but we need to keep rising, and that starts again [today].”
• Vikings in the house — West Vigo graduate John Burt had three tackles and broke up a pass in his usual spot as a starting cornerback for Rose-Hulman, but saw a former teammate in the other uniform.
Freshman Harley Elkins saw some late action as a defensive lineman for Anderson, and helped set up the last two points of the game. He made the stop on an Engineer shovel pass for a 4-yard loss at the 2-yard line, and the Ravens got a safety on the next play.