NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – A hard-fought Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference clash, highlighting Manchester University’s 2015 Homecoming festivities, went down to the final drive Saturday, Oct. 24.
Battling through heavy rains that hit Carl W. Burt Memorial Field in the final minute of play, the host Spartans (3-3 overall, 3-2 HCAC) advanced near their 30, trailing only 28-20, but the visiting Bluffton University Beavers stopped a fourth-down pass attempt and held on for the decision. The two sides were nearly dead even statistically, as MU had one more first down (20-19) and eight more passing yards (222-214), while BU (4-3 overall, 3-2 HCAC) gained 10 more yards on the ground (169-159) and ran two more plays (74-72) in route to a 383-381 edge in total offense.
Manchester University’s dynamic offensive duo of senior quarterback Logan Haston (Avon, Ind.) and sophomore running back Hunter Hardee (Fishers, Ind.) topped the attack. Haston hit on 20-of-30 attempts for 209 yards and a touchdown, while Hardee carried the ball 19 times for 142 yards with a score. Haston, firing for 200-yards-or-more for the 14thtime in the last 16 games, hit six different receivers. Senior Evan Rice (Gosport, Ind.) topped the list with nine receptions for 90 yards, while fellow senior Jarron Jackson (Indianapolis, Ind.) and juniorMatt Wirick (Granger, Ind.) hauled in four catches each.
After the Beavers posted touchdown drives on their first two possessions, the home-standing Spartans responded. Haston snuck the ball in from two yards out and then hit Jackson on a well-placed ball in the right corner of the south end zone just over two minutes before halftime to make the score 21-14. The home fans were on the verge of even more to cheer about in the third frame, as the Black and Gold marched inside BU’s 40 before an interception cut the drive short. Neither team produced another score until the final frame, when Bluffton University covered 72 yards in three plays, highlighted by a 65-yard touchdown strike, and MU answered with a 10-play, 70-march which ended with Hardee bowling over from five yards out. Included the rain-drenched last chance with the pigskin, the Spartans had two other opportunities that ended with a fumble and being stopped on downs.
Junior Nathan Birk (Indianapolis, Ind.), continuing his impressive play after switching from defensive back to linebacker, turned in 15 solo tackles and forced a fumble. Senior defensive back Taylor Anglemyer (Wakarusa, Ind.) was next in line with nine solo tackles including one for a loss. Freshman defensive back Dillon Nelson (Fairland, Ind.) added to his team-leading interception total with his sixth pick to go with six solo tackles.
The Black and Gold continue a current two-game home stand Saturday, Oct. 31. Rose-Hulman visits Burt Field for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
NOTES: Hardee continued to build on his conference-leading rushing totals. His fifth 100-yard-plus contest this season moved his average to 116.8 yards per contest, over 32 yards better than Mt. St. Joseph’s Charles McCall who is second. His eighth rushing touchdown kept him one ahead of Franklin College quarterback Chase Burton … Birk has developed a penchant for double-digit tackle efforts. He’s registered 10-or-more in three of his last four appearances.