The Defiance College Yellow Jackets football team capped off homecoming week with a 27-12 victory over Manchester University on Saturday afternoon at Justin F. Coressel Stadium. The win brings the Yellow Jackets win streak to three games after starting the season 0-3.
Defiance (3-3, 3-1 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference) forced four turnovers for the fourth straight week and Alex Larson threw for three touchdowns in the first victory for the Yellow Jackets over the Spartans (1-5, 1-3 HCAC) since 2010 and the first win at home over Manchester since 2007.
Andrew Feldhaus led the way for defensive turnovers for the Yellow Jackets. For the second straight week, Feldhaus had two interceptions and the sophomore defensive back also recovered a fumble early in the game. The Lutz, Fla. native entered the week with five forced fumbles (which leads NCAA Division III heading into the week) and now has four interceptions, one behind fellow DC defensive back Tony Sierra, who led Division III heading into the week.
Josh Slayton had the other turnover for the defense, intercepting a pass on the opening drive of the game.
The Yellow Jacket offense capitalized on Slayton's turnover and the fumble recovery, scoring 14 points in the first 7:32 of the game. Alex Larson found an open Darius Harper in the back of the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown passing play to open up the scoring and give Defiance the lead.
On the Yellow Jackets next possession, Blaine McGowan rushed for nine yards on a fake field goal play on fourth down to set DC up on the one-yard line. Lawrence Austin then capped off the drive and put DC up 14-0 two plays later. Austin finished with 96 yards rushing on 18 carries in the game.
McGowan finished with six tackles on the defensive side of the ball for Defiance in the game.
The teams then traded punts over the next 10 drives before Manchester got a break and picked off Larson's pass. The Spartans turned the turnover into six points with a 28-yard touchdown pass. The Spartans failed to convert the extra point and DC led going into halftime 14-6.
Defiance got the offense rolling early in the second half and Larson capped off an 8-play, 64-yard drive with a six yard touchdown pass to Bryan Weaver. The second touchdown pass of the day for the freshman quarterback put DC up 20-6 after the extra point was missed. Weaver had three receptions in the game for 24 yards.
The Yellow Jackets put together another long-sustained touchdown drive in the late third, early fourth. Aaron Spence capped off an 11-play, 77-yard drive with a leap in the end zone to pull down Larson's pass and give Defiance a 27-6 lead. Larson finished the game with 194 yards passing and three touchdowns while going 17-of-32.
Brian Mircovich led the way in receptions for the Yellow Jackets, catching six passes for 42 yards. Cody Wilson had four receptions for 46 yards. The Yellow Jackets led the total offensive yards mark for the sixth straight week to start the season. DC finished with 363 total yards (169 rushing/194 passing) to 238 (110/128) for Manchester.
Following the early score in the fourth for DC, Feldhaus picked off a Manchester pass to end a threatening drive for the Spartans. However, Manchester added its second touchdown off a DC turnover, capitalizing on fumble in a hand-off exchange on the ensuing drive. Manchester scored a quick touchdown, but missed its second extra point of the game.
Later in the fourth quarter, the Spartans had another threatening drive going until Feldhaus picked off his second pass of the game, this time in the Defiance end zone to seal the victory for the Yellow Jackets.
Defensively, Jorry Matherson led the way in tackles for the Yellow Jackets, totaling 11 on the day with two coming for a loss. Jamario Belton had a big game on the defensive line, recording six tackles with two for a loss. Andrew Leverenz also had six tackles on the defensive line for DC.
The Yellow Jackets have forced at least four turnovers in each of the HCAC games this season. The Yellow Jackets started the streak with four fumbles recovered against Rose-Hulman. The next week against Anderson, the Yellow Jackets had two fumble recoveries and four interceptions. Last week against Earlham, the Yellow Jackets defense had four interceptions and recovered a fumble. In total, the Yellow Jackets have 19 turnovers (eight fumble recoveries and 11 interceptions) during the four-game streak.
Dating back to the 2012 season, the Yellow Jackets have forced at least four turnovers against HCAC opponents in six straight games. Defiance had four fumble recoveries and an interception against Franklin and followed it up with three fumble recoveries and an interception against Bluffton to close out the season.
The victory for Defiance moves the Purple and Gold into a tie for the third spot in the HCAC Standings with Mount St. Joseph, who fell to Franklin on Saturday 55-27. The Yellow Jackets will ace the Lions of Mount St. Joseph next Saturday, October 19, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.