The Denison offense piled up 453 yards and the defense held Earlham scoreless until the final 14 seconds of the game. All of that resulted in a convincing 44-7 victory for the Big Red in Richmond, Ind.
For three quarters in last week's season opener at Ohio Wesleyan the DU offense looked a bit out of sync. They failed to sustain long drives and found themselves in plenty of third and long situations. In the fourth quarter you could see signs that junior quarterback Max Paulus and the offense were beginning to click. In fact, you had a sense that if another quarter of football were to have been played, the game might have had a happier ending than the 17-14 final score which favored the host, Battling Bishops.
That positive momentum which started last Saturday carried over throughout the week of practice and blossomed this afternoon in Darrell Beane Stadium. Paulus guided the Big Red on scoring drives of 76 yards and 78 yards in the first quarter and a Scott Baird 35-yard fumble return for a touchdown would put Denison up 21-0 with 4:49 to play in the first half.
On Denison's opening drive of the game Paulus hit sophomore tailback John Wilson for a 50-yard touchdown catch. Earlham would muster just one first down on their ensuing drive and DU took over on their own 22-yard line where Paulus went to work, hitting Andy Carpenter on a 25-yard strike that moved Denison into Earlham territory. A 15-yard run by Sam Fioroni and a 12-yard pass to Steven Lilley would get the Big Red down to the Quaker 2-yard line where Paulus would hook up with tight end Corey Daff for the Denison score.
Leading 14-0, Earlham quarterback Jacob Stewart would fumble on his own 35-yard line. That's where Baird, the senior free safety, scooped up the ball and scampered into the end zone. It marked the first fumble return for a touchdown by a Denison player since Brian Bishoff returned one 28-yards in a win over Gettysburg in 2004.
Things would get worse for the Quakers on their next possession. After they were forced to go three-and-out, Levi Simpson's punt was blocked by senior linebacker Adam Frudden and Joel Elliott was there to recover and return the ball 10-yards to the EC 15-yard line. Paulus would find Braden Layer for a 10-yard gain on first down and Fioroni would finish off the quick drive with a 5-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes to play in the first half.
DU would add some insurance before the conclusion of the first half when Matt Ring capped off a 6-play, 55-yard drive that lasted only 41 seconds, with a 24-yard field goal.
In the third quarter, Paulus would hit Lucas Graham and Nick Keller for touchdown passes of 16-yards and 4-yards, respectively. Paulus ended the day 19-of-25 for 269 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes. Fioroni carried the ball 14 times for 133 yards and one touchdown. Twelve different Denison receivers caught a pass on Saturday, but the squad was led for the second-straight week by Layer, who caught four passes for 56 yards. Graham also had four receptions for 44 yards and one touchdown. Carpenter finished with three catches for 44 yards.
On the other side of the ball, the Big Red defense made plenty of plays all afternoon. Kyle Green, Frudden and Nate Scheidler led the way with six tackles apiece. Lane Hartfield posted five stops and one and a half sacks. Senior cornerback Pat Effinger recorded the game's lone interception, while senior Anthony Zarate had two tackles for a loss, and one sack.
Earlham's lone touchdown came on second down from the Denison 6-yard line. That's where Dorian Jenkins completed a pass to Jaysn Murphy, spoiling the DU shutout bid with just 14 seconds left.
Denison's record improves to 1-1 while Earlham falls to 0-2. The Big Red will open their North Coast Athletic Conference schedule next Saturday (Sept. 17) when they host Hiram College at 7 p.m. The Denison Sports Network will provide a live video broadcast of that contest, beginning at 6:45 p.m.