Centre loses lead, bows to Bluffton

September 05, 2004

BLUFFTON, Ohio - Centre College couldn't hold an 11-point lead for the final 10 minutes, and Bluffton rallied to beat the Colonels 33-24 Saturday in the season opener for both teams.

Bluffton capitalized on three Centre turnovers, including one that led to the go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

"They took advantage of the turnovers they were able to get," Centre coach Andy Frye said.

The result was a surprising one based on the two teams' 2003 records. Centre went 8-2 and won a share of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship, while Bluffton was 2-8 and winless in its league.

"To them that was a big upset, and to us it was a big loss," Frye said. "We just need to rebound right now and get going."

Centre took a 24-13 lead when Adam Blandford caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Brian Behrendt with 11:09 to play. Bluffton answered three plays later with a big play, a 73-yard pass from Jared Owens to Leon Payne that made it 24-19 with 9:30 remaining.


Blandford, Centre's leading rusher with 74 yards, gave the ball right back to the Beavers when he fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Bluffton took over at the Centre 23-yard line and scored three plays on Owens' third touchdown pass of the day, taking a 26-24 lead with 7:49 left.

After the two teams traded punts, Centre was stopped on downs at its own 28 with 59 seconds remaining after four straight incomplete passes by Behrendt, who was 1-for-7 on that series and 21-for-49 overall for 275 yards and two touchdowns.

Bluffton converted on fourth-and-1 from the Centre 19 when Owens ran for 18 yards to the 1-yard line, and Ben Dodds ran into the end zone on the next play. Frye said he made the decision to allow Bluffton to quickly score its final touchdown in hopes of blocking the extra point, which would have left the margin at eight points, getting the ball back and tying the game.

The Colonels managed only a Chris Thompson field goal in the first half but trailed 6-3 after the second quarter, when Thompson missed two field-goal attempts. They scored twice in the third quarter to take a 17-13 lead into the final period.

"I felt like we just never got in a rhythm offensively," Frye said.

Centre blocked two punts - Matt Johnson and Michael Swartzentruber each got a block - but Frye said the Colonels didn't take advantage of either of them.

David Crowley had seven catches for 105 yards and one of the third-quarter touchdowns, and Bobby Gaffney also rushed for a touchdown in the third.

The Colonels lost running back Jeremy Britt, a Danville High School graduate, to an ankle injury in the second quarter. Britt had 10 carries for 15 yards.

Cornerback-punt returner Jacob Coleman suffered a more serious injury, a torn anterior cruciate ligament, early in the game.

Linebacker Jarrod Zywein led the Centre defense with 19 tackles, including three tackles for losses and a sack.

The Colonels face Kenyon in their home opener Saturday at Farris Stadium.

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