NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. -- The Trine University football team increased it's regular-season win streak to 21 games with a 38-21 win against Manchester University in the season opener at Bert Field in North Manchester, Ind.
Trine finished the game with 450 total yards of offense (206 passing and 244 rushing). Junior Dylan Dowling (Alexandria, Ind./Alexandria) rushed for a game-high 92 yards on 24 carries (3.8 yards per rush) and scored three times. Freshman Xaine Kirby (Sweetser, Ind./Eastbrook) was second in rushing with 53 yards on nine touches (5.9 yards per carry). Kirby also caught one pass that was a 23-yard TD reception. Sophomore Adam Gutting (Findlay, Ohio/Findlay) was the game's leading receiver with 67 yards (22.3 yards per catch) on three catches.
Defensively, senior Simeon Washington (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic) had a team-high nine tackles (six solo and three assist), including two tackles for loss.
Trine (1-0) went three-and-out on its first offensive drive, but then the Thunder got on the scoreboard on their next possession that was set up by a blocked Manchester punt by freshman Joseph Johnson (Taylor, Mich./Riverview) that gave Trine the ball at the Manchester (0-1) 31-yard line. Four plays later, Dowling found the endzone on a one-yard rush to put the visitors up, 7-0. Dowling also had a 12-yard rush that started the scoring drive.
On Trine's next drive, the Thunder extended the possession with a fourth down fake punt play in Spartan territory and later led to another scoring run by Dowling, this time from four yards out, that extended the margin to 14-0 with 8:35 to go in the first quarter. The score by Dowling capped a 19-play drive that lasted 9:07 and went 92 yards.
Late in the second quarter, Trine struck again late in the period when senior Brandon Winters (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic) connected with fellow senior Seth Boggs (Sandusky, Ohio/Perkins) on a 14-yard strike with 4:27 left before halftime and made it a 21-0 ball game.
Trine got the ball back one more time before the end of the half and would set up a long field goal attempt by junior Ryan Hibbets (Monticello, Ind./Twin Lakes) from 51 yards out. Hibbets attempt sailed through the uprights setting a Trine single-game record. Hibbets broke his own single-game record that he set last year with a 48-yarder against Albion (Mich.) College. The extra three points led to a 24-0 advantage for Trine at the break.
The Thunder began the second half with the first possession, but the drive ended on a fourth down play at the Manchester 33-yard line. Manchester then got a little momentum on its first drive of the second half that resulted in its first points of the game on a touchdown pass completion on fourth down from the Thunder three-yard line to get the scoreboard, 24-7 with 8:44 left in the third quarter.
Two drives later, Trine answered the Manchester score when Winters connected on a 23-yard pass play to Kirby with a little over a minute to go in the period and ended an eight-play, 50-yard drive and put the Thunder back ahead by 24 points, 31-7. The Kirby TD was the final points of the quarter.
The first points of the fourth quarter came on a 48-yard scramble by the Spartan quarterback with 12:21 left to play and made the score, 31-14. On the ensuing kickoff, Manchester attempted an onside kick, but the attempt didn't travel the required 10 yards and gave the Thunder excellent field position at the Manchester 44-yard line. But the drive ended on a fumble that was recovered by the Spartans.
Manchester took advantage of the Trine error and turned the takeaway into seven more points on a two-yard run on fourth down, the Spartans' second fourth-down conversion for a score on the night, and cut the deficit to 31-21 with seven minutes to go in regulation.
Momentum was clearly on the side of the home team, but Trine answered the Manchester score on an eight-play, 66-yard drive that ended in Dowling's third rushing TD of the game, this time from a yard out with just under two minutes to go. The score would put the game away for the Thunder who went on to claim a 38-21 victory to keep their regular-season win streak going.
Trine will return to action next Saturday (Sept. 14) when the Thunder travel to Bluffton, Ohio to take on Bluffton University. The game is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.