GRANVILLE, Ohio-- Denison ended their 2017 season with a 7-3 record after a convincing 51-20 victory over Kenyon College at Piper Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The win marks the third-straight season with seven or more victories, matching a feat last accomplished between 1984-86.
The Lords checked into the game with the nation's 16th ranked passing offense led by sophomore quarterback Thomas Merkle. On the first drive of the game, Kenyon marched 90 yards on 17 plays. It was capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Merkle to Ian Robertson.
After the early Kenyon score, Denison proceeded to score the next 44 points utilizing a ball-hawking defense and a ball-control offense that took the Lords out of the game by early in the third quarter.
Denison junior running back Alex Minton entered the game needing 190 yards to reach 1,000 rushing yards for the season. He had 73 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and went for 118 yards in the second half to become the 15th player in Denison history to reach the milestone. He finished the day with 23 carries for 191 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Minton is the first 1,000-yard back at Denison since Sam Fioroni rushed for 1,225 yards in 2012.
As a team, DU ran the ball a season-high 44 times for 362 yards. It was the third time this season DU has combined for 300 yards rushing. It was also the most yards rushing in a single game since 2008. Canaan Gebele followed Minton with 14 carries for 148 yards and one touchdown. He broke off a 56-yard TD in the third quarter to put Denison on top 34-7.
Gebele was 9-of-19 for 96 yards through the air. He ended the season with 2,016 yards passing and 791 yards rushing. His 2,807 yards of total offense is a new career-high for Gebele. It is the fifth-highest single-season total in program history.
The Denison defense posted two interceptions, 10 pass break-ups, and five sacks. Francis Fay intercepted Merkle in the second quarter and returned it 42-yards for a pick-6. Ryan Zinkula led the team in tackles with nine and Nate Keirn posted 1 ½ sacks. Senior cornerback Alex Raynor had another big game in the secondary, finishing with seven tackles, one tackle-for-loss, and three pass break-ups. His break-up on 4th-and-10 from the 16-yard line prevented a Kenyon touchdown, allowing the Big Red offense to take flight.
Merkle finished the day 22-of-48 for 174 yards and one TD, marking his second-lowest passing output of the season. Ian Bell led all receivers with 11 catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Byrd rushed for 44 yards on three carries. As a team, Kenyon finished with 38 rushing yards and 272 yards of total offense compared to 505 yards of offense for the Big Red.
Since 2015, Denison has gone 22-8, tying for the second-best three-year stretch in the 127-year history of the program. Since 2013, the Big Red has a combined record of 35-15.