Big Red strikes early and often in win over Earlham
Brandon Sklenar tallied 275 yards of total offense and combined for three touchdowns as Denison rolled to a 51-28 season-opening win over Earlham College on Saturday night in Granville.
Making his first career start at quarterback, Skelnar proved early on that opposing defenses will need to game plan wisely for the dual threat QB from Midland, Mich. On the second play of the contest, Sklenar went up top to sophomore DuShawn Brown for a 49-yard touchdown pass, giving DU a 7-0 lead in the opening minute of the game.
On Earlham's second play from scrimmage, quarterback Matt Couch was intercepted by senior linebacker Joel Elliott. He would return the interception 23 yards to the Earlham 20-yard line. On first down, Sklenar would take the ball on a designed run play and go 20-yards for Denison's second touchdown in the first 1:22 of play.
Before Earlham even knew what hit them, they trailed 14-0.
The frenetic pace would slow a bit, but on Denison's fourth drive of the game, Sklenar would complete a 15-yard TD pass to John Wilson on second down, giving the home team a 21-0 lead with 5:38 remaining in the first quarter.
Before halftime, Wilson would add one rushing touchdown from 2-yards out and Matt Puracchio would convert a 27-yard field goal. In the waning minutes of the first quarter Earlham's Couch would find Jalen Kenner for an 8-yard score but Elliott would block the extra point, making the halftime score 31-6 in favor of the home team.
In the second half, Earlham did outscore the Big Red 22-21 but the big first half advantage by Denison would be too much for the Quakers to overcome. The third and fourth quarters saw touchdowns scored by junior running back Colin Morris, senior fullback Jack Varanese and sophomore back-up quarterback Luke Pavlatos.
Sklenar led all passers with 196 yards while going 16-for-22 with two touchdowns and one interception. He also carried the ball 15 times for 79 yards and one score. Wilson led all rushers with 102 yards off 14 carries to go along with his touchdown. That marked the first 100-yard rushing game of his collegiate career.
Ten different DU receivers caught passes but Brown led the way with 57 yards and one touchdown. Wilson finished with 42 yards off three catches while Hunter Winans caught two passes for 48 yards.
For Earlham, Couch and Alonzo Genelin combined for 339 yards passing and four TDs. Their favorite target was Kenner who finished with six catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
On defense, Denison freshman Andrew Baird got the start at safety and posted six solo tackles and one interception. Other interceptions were turned in by Zach Pewitt, Teddy Kuntz, and Elliott. The four interceptions also resulted in 109 return yards for the Big Red.
Denison will return to action next Saturday (Sept. 14) when they host Hiram College at 7 p.m. from Piper Stadium.